LOCATION: LOS ANGELES
A wind of change in the music industry
“Right now, I feel free. Free from… Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke´s chains and what they tried to keep on us and the lies that were told.”
These were reportedly the words from Marvin Gaye´s daughter Nona Gaye after the Blurred Lines verdict in Los Angeles, awarding her & the other Gaye heirs 7.4 million dollars. The lawsuit was filed two years ago and the trial took eight days of testimony, resulting in the verdict the 10th of March this year (2015). So, here is a case for the music- interested.
What legal aspects could possibly lead up to this & make these words come from the heir of the famous musician Marvin Gaye? The main issue of the trial was that the heirs claimed that the Pharrell, Thicke & TI´s Blurred Lines constituted a copyright infringement of their father´s song Got to Give it Up.
If one listens to both of the songs – obviously they have a similar sound and may send one´s thoughts to a possible violation of someone´s intellectual property rights, namely copyrights. But for the jury in Los Angeles, this was enough for being constituted as plagiarism. This verdict is hugely debated because it obviously changes the game plan for artists and music makers in the business and seem to lower the requirements of what can be considered as plagiarism.
So, what is the difference and why is this relevant? The copyright law gives the copyright owner a set of rights that they alone may use legally. When someone infringes on these rights, we have a copyright infringement and the right- holder(s) are the only party(ies) that has been faulted.
Plagiarism, on the other hand, is when someone takes your work and present it as their own. The term “unethical” could be claimed as a central concept in these matters and obviously, it is considered as a worse offense than the former. One can say that, when plagiarism is at hand, we instead have two parties that have been faulted – the right owner (here; the heirs of Marvin Gaye), and the people (e.g the listeners) who have been “tricked into thinking” that the infringer (here; Pharrell & co) have made this song.
So, if you hated those blurred lines, you were obviously not alone. The Gaye heirs did not seem to particularly like them either.
I would highly recommend the music makers in the business to keep an eye on the aftermath and/or the possible appeals of this verdict.
Otherwise someone might be dragging you to court for your (blurred) lines, too.