By now you’ve probably heard about the copyright lawsuit against Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke, which resulted in Marvin Gaye’s children being awarded $7.4 million in damages. The Gaye family filed the lawsuit because of the strong similarities between Pharrell and Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” and their father’s song “Got To Give It Up.” The $7.4 million figure was calculated based on what the Gaye estate would have earned had Marvin Gaye been credited as a writer.
In this case, I think it’s pretty clear that there is copyright infringement, and this could have been easily avoided by simply giving Gaye a writer credit (ironically, Robin Thicke has a writer credit despite admitting to having no part in writing the song.) However one argument by Pharrell & Thicke’s lawyer was that “a verdict in favor of the Gaye family would have a chilling effect on musicians who were trying to recreate a genre or homage to another artist’s sound.” While the line between plagiarism and taking inspiration from another artist might be a fine one, they can be distinguished. We see artists every day coming out with creative sounds that may have been inspired by previous songs and that don’t get accused of plagiarism.
Pharrell has explicitly denied using any other artists’ material to create Blurred Lines, which is quite shocking when you consider what an experienced producer and musician he is and someone who has used samples before. It’s important to remember that the jury didn’t even hear “Got To Give It Up,” they heard a recreated version of the track based on the sheet music.
Naturally, Pharrell and Robin Thicke have chosen to appeal against the verdict but hopefully they have learned their lesson. To be honest, I think we could have all done without the song in the first place.
– Elise Tsenti