Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

"Blurred Lines" Verdict Likely to Alter Music Business

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

"Blurred Lines" Verdict Likely to Alter Music Business

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES | A verdict saying Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke copied Marvin Gaye's music to create their hit song "Blurred Lines" could ripple across the music industry, potentially changing how artists work and opening the door to new copyright claims.

An eight-person jury determined Tuesday that Williams and Thicke copied elements of Gaye's 1977 hit "Got to Give It Up" and ordered the pair to pay nearly $7.4 million to the late R&B legend's three children.

The music industry may feel new constraints in the coming years as artists -- and lawyers -- sort through the verdict and its implications.

Howard King, lead attorney for Thicke and Williams, said in closing arguments that a verdict for the Gaye family would have a chilling effect on musicians trying to evoke an era or create an homage to the sound of earlier artists. Williams contended during the trial that he was only trying to mimic the "feel" of Gaye's late 1970s music but insisted he did not use elements of his idol's work.

"Today's successful verdict, with the odds more than stacked against the Marvin Gaye estate, could redefine what copyright infringement means for recording artists," said Glen Rothstein, an intellectual property attorney.

He said the decision sets a precedent because "paying homage to musical influences was an acceptable, and indeed commonplace way of conducting business and even showing respect for one's musical idols, (but) after today, doubt has been cast on where the line will be drawn for copyright infringement purposes."

Music copyright trials are rare, but allegations that a song copies another artist's work are common. Singers Sam Smith and Tom Petty recently reached an agreement that conferred songwriting credit to Petty on Smith's song, "Stay With Me," which resembled Petty's hit "I Won't Back Down."

In the "Blurred Lines" case, the Gaye family will seek an injunction against the song, giving them leverage to negotiate for royalties and other concessions such as songwriting credits.

Nona Gaye, the late singer's daughter, wept as the verdict was read and later told reporters: "Right now, I feel free. …

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