In 2013, “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams was a smash hit. On Wednesday, a federal appeals court upheld a $5.3 million judgment against Thicke and Williams after Marvin Gaye’s family said they’d copied one of the famous singer’s songs to create the hit tune.
Reuters reports: By a 2-1 vote, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give It Up” deserved “broad” copyright protection, and the March 2015 jury verdict in favor of Gaye’s three children could stand because there was “not an absolute absence of evidence” of similarity between the two songs.
Circuit Judge Milan Smith also upheld an award of 50 percent of future royalties from “Blurred Lines” to the Gayes. He restored the jury finding that the Interscope record label, part of Vivendi SA, and Clifford Harris, the rapper known as T.I. who added a verse to “Blurred Lines,” should not be liable.
Jurors had awarded the Gayes $7.4 million, but U.S. District Judge John Kronstadt reduced the sum to $5.3 million, while adding royalties. Kronstadt also said T.I. and Interscope should be liable, but the appeals court disagreed.
The “Blurred Lines” case has transfixed the music industry, prompting debate over the line between plagiarism and honoring works by popular artists like Gaye, whose songs also include “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “What’s Going On.” Gaye was fatally shot by his father in 1984 at age 44.
The report continues: Two of Gaye’s children, Frankie and Nona, called the decision “a victory for the rights of all musicians.”
Williams, whose songs also include “Happy,” admitted in court to being a Gaye fan since childhood but said “Blurred Lines” and “Got to Give it Up” were similar in genre only.
Thicke has in interviews acknowledged drawing on Gaye’s song but maintained in sworn statements that he exaggerated his contribution to “Blurred Lines.”