Blurred Lines, one of the biggest musical hits of 2013, was found to hold copyright infringement by a jury who ruled on Tuesday that the song is a ripoff of Marvin Gaye’s song, Got to Give it Up. The trial lasted for a week, and was apparently very entertaining, but in the end musicians Robin Thicke, T.I., and Pharrell Williams will have to pay out a total of $7.3 million dollars of Blurred Lines earnings to Gaye’s estate. Gaye’s estate, Nona, Frankie, and Marvin Gaye III, were glad to hear the verdict, as a jury of eight came in with the ruling, following the hearing.
In August of 2013, the trial against the alleged copyright infringement of Blurred Lines began. The song Blurred Lines was recorded 2012 and was released in March of 2013. Upon receiving threats from Gaye’s estate, Thicke brought up a preemptive court case, when he sued Gaye’s children for their attacks against Blurred Lines. The family then counter sued Thicke, Williams, and T.I. over their claims that Blurred Lines was a ripoff of their father’s hit, Got to Give it Up. The deliberation lasted for over one year, causing the family of Gaye to ask for at least $25 million in damages.
The family also sued Thicke for the alleged copyright infringement of some of his other songs, on the album Love After War, stating that the singer had also stolen from Gaye’s songs After the Dance and I Want You. After Thicke told GQ magazine that Marvin Gaye was an inspiration to him, the family of Gaye claimed that Thicke had a “Marvin Gaye fixation.” Thick counter argued that he was high and drunk for most of the year 2013, and that he did not remember what he had said in interviews. He also admitted that he had little to do with the making of the Blurred Lines, claiming that even though he took credit for co-producing Blurred Lines, it was really Pharrell Williams who wrote most of it, and T.I. who helped produce.
While the claims that the singer ripped other songs off of Gaye fell through, as well as the claim by Funkadelic claiming that Blurred Lines took from their song Sexy Ways, the claim that the song infringed upon Got to Give it Up continued on until the jury found in favor of Gaye’s estate. At the end of the trial a representative for Williams said that it was an extremely disappointing ruling and a horrible precedent for music and creativity. He stated that Williams created the Blurred Lines from his heart, mind, and soul. He also stated that they were still considering their options.
Until then, Thicke, Williams, and T.I. have been ordered to pay $7.3 million dollars to the Gaye estate, from the earnings of Blurred Lines. While this amount exceeds the previous record limit of $5.4 million in the Michael Bolton v. Isley Brothers case, it is a fair amount when considering that the testimony showed Blurred Lines had made the singers over $17 million, though the overhead was $6.9 million. It is also a much lower amount than the Gaye estate originally sued for, which was damages of at least $25 million.
As the video for Blurred Lines was entertaining for many (as the three men dance around with naked women), it seems the court case was also entertaining. As the question was whether or not Blurred Lines was a copyright infringment on Got to Give it Up, the defendants and prosecution both worked to prove their side. During the testimony, Gaye’s estate was not allowed to play the full song Got to Give it Up, as the concern was over Gaye’s voice interfering, but were eventually allowed to play a broke down version of the song. However, Thicke was allowed to play many songs on the keyboard. He played portions of With or Without You by U2, Let It Be by The Beatles, Forever Young by Alphaville, No Woman No Cry by Bob Marley, and Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson. According to sources, this was so that Thicke could show the jury that all of these songs are based on the same chords, which his songs also share. He apparently danced a little in his seat while testifying. Williams also testified about the “feel” of the song stating that the Blurred Lines and Got to Give it Up only have the same feel, but not the same musical qualities.
All of the testimony gave the jury much to think about, but in the end they voted in favor of the Gaye estate, and against Thicke, T.I., and William. Williams lawyer did state that they would still be looking at their options, and told reporters that we will hear from them in the future. Two years after the release of Blurred Lines, the court case has now come to an end. As Blurred Lines continues to make money, at least the musicians will not have to pay out their royalties.
By Crystal Boulware