A year ago, the earth was grooving to ‘Blurred Lines’ when the song of last summer smashed it into the top of the charts in most countries of the world. Producer Pharrell Williams and singer Robin Thicke filed a lawsuit against the family of Marvin Gaye, that sought a declaration that the hit wasn’t an infringement of Gaye’s ‘Got To Give It Up’. In response, Frankie Gaye and Nona Gaye brought counterclaims that alleged that Thicke’s “Marvin Gaye fixation” had led to the misappropriation of two songs…
Since then, the respective sides have examined reports from musicologists, given depositions and fought over access to evidence. Now, it’s come time for Williams’ camp to tell a judge why the issues in the case are so indisputable that the creators of ‘Blurred Lines’ should be given victory without any jury trial. Adjudicating similarity in song craft can be a very complicated matter, but the latest motion filed by attorney Howard King attempts a rather smart legal gambit by addressing the difference between a song composition and a song recording. The Law confers copyrights on each, and here the plaintiffs say that the Gaye only own the composition to ‘Got to Give it Up’, not the recording, which presumably is owned by Gaye‘s record label. “Musical elements of ”Got To Give It Up’ that are not contained in the composition — such as the ‘groove’ of the sound recording, the sounds of the instruments, or other recording or performance elements (e.g., falsetto singing, party noise) have no bearing on the infringement claim here”, argues the summary judgment motion.
There are supposedly eight “similarities” identified between ‘Blurred Lines’ and ‘Got To Give It Up”, but the plaintiffs shrug them off as “unprotected, commonplace ideas” like the use of a cowbell, repeating a note in a melody, and backup vocals that don’t use the same harmony or rhythm.
The fact that Gaye‘s music publisher at EMI refused to file claims is certainly noted. “The publisher was right”, says the plaintiffs. As they say, where there is a writ, there is a Hit! What do you think?
Gary Van den Bussche (Disco, Soul, Gold)