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Did Robin Thicke Rip Off Marvin Gaye?

Unraveling the “Blurred Lines” beef

Did you know that it was possible to launch a “pre-emptive strike” in the courts? Apparently, it is.

It’s also apparent that Robin Thicke’s smash hit “Blurred Lines” is living up to its name in more ways than one. Chased by controversy almost from the jump (thanks to an accompanying nudity-filled music video), the hit single has now become embroiled in what is shaping up to be a significant legal dispute between the Thicke and Gaye camps over whether the song rips off Gaye’s song “Got To Give It Up.”

Let’s try to unravel this for you. Not long ago, complaints apparently began surfacing from members of Marvin Gaye’s surviving family that “Blurred Lines” bore a remarkable resemblance sound-wise to “Got To Give It Up.” Similar, though not as loud, complaints began surfacing that the song might also be borrowing from Funkadelic’s “Sexy Ways.” (Both songs are owned by Bridgeport Music.)

So last week, in a pre-emptive effort to protect his interests, Thicke got to the courts first, “reluctantly” filing a lawsuit against the Gaye estate whose rights he may have already violated, as well as against Bridgeport Music. As Hollywood Reporter first broke the story, the lawsuit does not ask for money, but simply asks the courts to rule that “Blurred Lines” hasn’t violated any copyright laws, and that the Gayes do not have grounds to claim infringement. The suit freely admits similarities in sounds, but insists that the song was composed without copying anyone else. “Being reminiscent of a ‘sound’ is not copyright infringement,” it says. “The intent of ‘Blurred Lines’ was to invoke an era.”

The defensive move apparently incensed the already disgruntled Gaye family. In a video interview with TMZ released August 22, Gaye’s son Marvin Gaye III expressed his discontent with the way Thicke had chosen to do business, and while he stopped short of freely stating that a lawsuit was in the works, certainly gave enough insinuation to make us assume that the Gaye estate plans to sue.

But the plot, um… “Thicke”-ens even further. Yesterday, Billboard reported that prior to Thicke filing his pre-emptive strike, the Thicke camp approached the Gaye estate with a six-figure settlement in an apparent attempt to avert a confrontation—an offer which the family reportedly declined.

So what’s going on? When you listen to “Blurred Lines” against “Got To Give It Up” (which we can’t do here for copyright reasons), the similarities are certainly apparent—but is it really enough to warrant an infringement suit? That might be a little difficult to prove. On the other hand, the fact that Thicke offered a settlement before this whole beef began really getting started indicates that Thicke may have been worried about this for awhile. And as Gaye III poses the question to TMZ, “What would he want to be protected from if he didn’t do anything?”

So what do you think? Did Robin Thicke rip off Marvin Gaye? And is any lawsuit warranted, by either side?



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About the Author


David Tillman is an independent composer/arranger whose primary work involves writing jingles for commercials for radio and television, with several film and television placements to his credit as well. David has a fascination for all things related to the music business and the music industry in general, an obsession which his wife finds to be mildly unhealthy at times. His personal tastes in music are in electronica and industrial rock, and include The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk and Nine Inch Nails (he loves that Trent Reznor is writing soundtracks!). When not in his office or in his man-cave, David enjoys skiing, hiking, the occasional game of golf, and sometimes just lounging by the pool. David lives with his wife and three children in Los Angeles, CA.

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