Billboard.com reported on August 15, 2013 that Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris, Jr. (aka T.I.) filed a peremptory lawsuit in California federal court against Marvin Gaye’s family and Bridgeport Music, which owns some of Funkadelic’s compositions. At issue are complaints about similarities between “Blurred Lines” and Gaye’s “Got To Give it Up”.
In the trio’s lawsuit of Williams, Thicke & Harris v. Bridgeport Music, Gaye et al., they argued: “Plaintiffs, who have the utmost respect for and admiration of Marvin Gaye, Funkadelic and their musical legacies, reluctantly file this action in the face of multiple adverse claims from alleged successors in interest to those artists. Defendants continue to insist that plaintiffs’ massively successful composition, ‘Blurred Lines,’ copies ‘their’ compositions.”
Billboard.com reports further on August 23rd that the defendants rejected a six-figure settlement offer that came shortly after the lawsuit was filed:
“According to sources knowledgeable with the lawsuit, the settlement offer came after Frankie Christian Gaye, Marvin Gaye III and Nona Marvisa Gaye accused Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” hit single of plagiarizing “Got To Give it Up,” written and composed by Marvin Gaye, who died in 1984.”
In the court of public opinion, many fans of both artists pick up the similarities. The legal question is whether similarities are “substantially” so as a matter of law and whether the trio copied from the original unlawfully.
Only time will tell. Most of these cases settle out of court. But in light of the bright line drawn in the sand by Thicke and his co-composers and the value of Marvin Gaye’s copyrights and family’s reaction both to the song and the lawsuit, this is just the type of suit that could actually play out in the courtroom.
What do you think about the song? Similar? Substantially so? Check out the video mashup and share your two cents in the comments section:
*Thanks to C. Zittle and T. Danon from my Copyright & Trademark class for this Hot Topic*