Judges rule that Blurred Lines copied Gaye

Robin Thicke
Robin Thicke

NEW YORK • A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a jury's finding that Robin Thicke's song Blurred Lines infringed on the copyright of Marvin Gaye's Got To Give It Up though one of the three judges thought otherwise.

In a dissent, judge Jacqueline Nguyen criticised the decision as one that "allows the Gayes to accomplish what no one has before: copyright a musical style".

She further warned that the decision "establishes a dangerous precedent that strikes a devastating blow to future musicians and composers everywhere".

When the case went to trial in 2015, it became a flash point in the music industry over the limits of copyright.

The family of Gaye, who died in 1984, argued that the song was copied without permission and that it had helped make Blurred Lines the biggest hit of 2013.

Lawyers for Thicke and Pharrell Williams, who helped write and record the song, disputed that claim and, in the wider music industry, many worried that the suit went too far in trying to protect generic elements of a song's style and "feel".

A victory, opponents of the case warned, could lead to more litigation and have a chilling effect on creativity.

Since the dispute over Blurred Lines began, there have been several prominent settlements over credit and royalties.

For example, even before the Blurred Lines verdict was announced, Sam Smith shared credit for his 2014 hit Stay With Me after Tom Petty said it sounded like his 1989 song I Won't Back Down.

But, in the majority opinion, Judge Milan Smith Jr rejected the idea that the verdict would harm creativity.

Gaye's three children called the decision "all positive for writers".

"If an artist wants to use the work of others for 'inspiration', they always have been welcome to ask for permission."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2018, with the headline 'Judges rule that Blurred Lines copied Gaye '. Print Edition | Subscribe