Posted May 12th, 2015 (11:00 am) by Sean O'Leary
Music Player: 

It’s been just shy of two months now since a jury awarded the family of Marvin Gaye a 7.4 million dollar verdict in their favor, holding Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke responsible for infringement of copyright of “Got To Give It Up,” which the late singer recorded in 1977. Now, both parties are rallying for a more protracted legal battle.

On May 1, an appeal was filed by Williams, Thicke, and T.I.’s attorney which criticized the verdict as “Unfounded, illogical, and a miscarriage of justice.” The crux of their appeal, according to the LA Times, is that the judge ruled that jurors could consider only the note-for-note composition of “Got To Give It Up,” as opposed to aspects of the song’s recording (because laws at the time did not allow for a recording to be copyright protected). During the trial, jurors received testimony from Gaye’s former wife Janis and from a musicologist, both of whom testified regarding similarities present in the recordings but absent in the sheet music – according to the “Blurred Lines” camp, both testimonies should be inadmissible.

Meanwhile, Gaye’s family is also filing to continue the battle. They had previously sought an injunction against the “distribution and performance” of the song, claiming that it furthered the copyright infringement. Now they’ve also motioned to have the jury verdict confirmed, as well as seeking liability from rapper T.I., who appeared on the track, and the record companies involved in the album’s production and distribution.

The effects of the original ruling are already being felt throughout the music industry. “Uptown Funk,” Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ chart-dominating funk track, suddenly boasts five songwriting credits from members of The Gap Band, after Ronson and Mars elected not to contest a claim that the track bore similarity to “I Don’t Believe You Want To Get Up And Dance (Oops, Up Side Your Head).” Alan Thicke, Robin Thicke’s father and actor from Growing Pains, was quick to pin Ronson and Mars’ reluctance to engage legally on the Gaye ruling. He stated in an interview that “everybody is a little wary of any possibility of plagiarism”.

Ronson is no stranger to the claw-your-eyes-out-from-boredom world of copyright law. In a TED talk from a year ago, he waxed philosophic on the role of sampling and digital mixers in the current musical landscape. He discusses “La Di Da Di” by Slick Rick & Doug E. Fresh and its use in samples (and the field day copyright lawyers must have had). The payoff of his talk is that “the dam has burst… We take the things we love and co-opt them.” Thus far, the courts have not necessarily agreed with him, and as the legal battle over Blurred Lines drags on, we’ll have to wait and see how a new jury feels.

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