The “Blurred Lines” Verdict Ruling Officially Makes Biting Illegal

Dang, remember when Robin Thicke had everybody thinking he was the best thing since Michael Bolton? Well like Michael Bolton before him, Robin Thicke was hit in the pockets with a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement. Where Thickes flub falls squarely on producer Pharrell, Boltons lifted a whole damn song off the Isley Brothers in 1990.

The original trial jury determined there were five instances in which the Bolton song plagiarized the Isleys’ tune. The original jury ruled that 66% of the song’s profits came from copyright-infringed material and that 28% of the profits from the album. Bolton fought the $5.3 million judgment in court for nine years. That wasn’t the case for Robin Thicke.

Yesterday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed and upheld a $5 million lawsuit claiming Thicke and Pharrell Williams infringed upon the copyright of Got to Give It Up by Marvin Gaye with their 2015 hit Blurred Lines.


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The family of Gaye, who died in 1984, argued that Got to Give It Up was copied without permission, and that it had helped make Blurred Lines the biggest hit of 2013. It was reportedly the first time in history that a song’s “feel” was considered admissible in court. 

Marvin Gaye’s heirs win in appeal over Blurred Lines plagiarism case

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals largely affirmed the verdict of the $5.3 million suit claiming Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams infringed on the copyright of Gaye’s Got to Give It Up with chart-topper Blurred Lines.

The initial victory had the whole industry shook, because sometimes “paying homage” is just another word for “biting”.  

Before the Blurred Lines verdict was announced, Sam Smith willingly shared credit for his hit Stay With Me after Tom Petty said it sounded like his song I Wont Back Down.

The appeals court decision, by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, reflected on cases ramifications.

Robin Thicke – Blurred Lines ft. T.I., Pharrell

Watch the UNRATED version only on VEVO: Download the album in US now! Click here for a special customized canvas of Blurred Lines: Watch him perform live on Interscope Introducing : Music video by Robin Thicke performing Blurred Lines. (C) 2013 Star Trak, LLC

According to a New York Times report, the ruling was largely procedural.  Most of the trial courts decision and its damages award of $5.3 million was upheld, but they reversed a decision that had also assigned liability to the rapper T.I., who contributed to the song, and Interscope Records, which released it.

Some industry folks are up in arms about the manner in which this ruling could hinder creativity, but I’m wondering how’s sounding like someone else even considered to creative at all?

Judge Milan D. Smith Jr had this to say in the majority opinion, rejecting the idea that the verdict would harm creativity.

Far from heralding the end of musical creativity as we know it, Judge Smith wrote, our decision, even construed broadly, reads more accurately as a cautionary tale for future trial counsel wishing to maximize their odds of success.

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