Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke ordered to pay Marvin Gaye's heirs $10 million over Blurred Lines

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS, AFP) - Heirs of the late soul singer Marvin Gaye won a US$7.4 million (S$10.3 million) judgment on Tuesday against recording stars Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, who a jury found plagiarised the Motown artist in the creation of their hit single Blurred Lines.

The United States District Court jury in Los Angeles sided with Gaye's estate in the closely watched litigation, finding that parts of his 1977 hit Got To Give it Up were lifted by Thicke and Williams for their summer 2013 R&B chart-topper.

"I'm so filled with emotion that it's hard to get the words out," said Gaye's daughter Nona, calling the verdict a "miracle" and adding that the late soul singer's family took legal action "because he can't do it for himself".

Following the verdict, the Gaye family's lawyer Richard Busch said that he plans to seek an injunction blocking future sales of Blurred Lines, which was a worldwide hit.

Neither Williams nor Thicke, who had both testified during the trial, were in court to hear the verdict.

But a spokesman for Williams told Rolling Stone magazine: "While we respect the judicial process, we are extremely disappointed in the ruling made today, which sets a horrible precedent for music and creativity going forward.

"Pharrell created Blurred Lines from his heart, mind and soul, and the song was not taken from anyone or anywhere else. We are reviewing the decision and considering our options."

The Gaye heirs had sought a portion of the nearly US$16.5 million in profits that the hit party song has reaped since its release two years ago.

The jury awarded about US$4 million in damages, plus roughly US$3.4 million in profits.

Evidence presented in court suggested that Thicke and Williams each earned more than US$5 million from the success of the record.

During the two-week trial, Williams said he understood why fans connected the two songs, but explained: "Soul music sounds like soul music. I must've been channeling that late 70s feeling."

The Gaye estate had said Blurred Lines copied elements of the 1970s track. The two sides brought in music experts who dissected the structures of the two songs to debate the merits of the claim.

The jury cleared rapper Clifford "T.I." Harris Jr. - who collaborated with the pair on the song, and made over US$700,000 from it - of any wrongdoing.

At the time the Gaye song was copyrighted, only written music - not sound recordings - could be registered with the copyright office.

Although jurors saw the Blurred Lines video and heard the song, they were told to only consider the chords, melodies and lyrics of the songs, rather than production elements.

The federal lawsuit was originally filed two years ago by the Blurred Lines stars as a preemptive legal strike to protect the song from claims that it was derived from the decades-old Gaye hit.

The Gaye family filed counterclaims alleging that Thicke's fascination with the soul icon led to the misappropriation of his work in Blurred Lines and in the title track of Thicke's 2011 album Love After War.

Long before the trial, "Blurred Lines" was controversial.

The song contains the refrain "I hate these blurred lines/I know you want it" and has been condemned by critics who say the lyrics refer to the issue of sexual consent.

The video features naked women parading before Thicke.

Gaye was shot and killed by his father on the eve of his 45th birthday in 1984, leaving behind a remarkable string of hits - led by Let's Get It On, I Heard It Through The Grapevine and Sexual Healing - that remain pop, funk and soul classics.