The summer of 2013 was one of record breakers for blue-eyed R&B crooner, Robin Thicke. His song â€œBlurred Lines,â€ featuring Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris (â€œTIâ€), broke the record for biggest single week download when it racked more than 428,000 in June. It broke another record in July when the song reached more than 242.62 million listeners, smashing the record for highest radio audience ever. But, perhaps in August all good things will come to an end?
Last week Thicke, along with Williams and Harris, filed a suit against Marvin Gayeâ€™s family as well as Bridgeport Music in the Central District of California Court. According to the suit, the Gaye family and Bridgeport Music had recently notified Thicke that if he did not pay a monetary settlement, they would initiate litigation for copyright infringement. According to the Gaye family, Thickeâ€™s summer hit â€œBlurred Linesâ€ too closely resembles Gayeâ€™s â€œGot to Give It Up.â€ Bridgeport Music claims the same, arguing that Thickeâ€™s song infringes on the Funkadelic song, â€œSexy Ways,â€ the rights to which Bridgeport Music owns.
In his six-page suit, Thicke claims there are no similarities between â€œBlurred Linesâ€ and â€œGot to Give It Upâ€ or â€œSexy Ways.â€ I recently brought both songs to Everett Cork, a music industry insider for over 30 years. A former on air-personality at the classic oldies radio station WCIN, Cork has spent the bulk of his career playing the likes of Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, The Four Tops and The Commodores. When asked to compare â€œBlurred Linesâ€ and â€œGot to Give It Upâ€ two songs, Cork noted, â€œfor anyone not to notice the similarities is truly beyond my comprehension.â€ He went on to state that a â€œgreat majority of the music that capture the ears of todayâ€™s music lovers, captivates because it samples the beats of songs that will forever be pleasant to listen and dance to.â€ He believes the song is clearly a remake of Gayeâ€™s â€œGot to Give It Up.â€ According to him, the BPMs (beats per minute) make it one of the simplest songs to mix with Gayeâ€™s original hit.
So, what is copyright infringement? To establish copyright infringement in a court of law, a copyright owner must establish proof of i). ownership of the infringing work and ii). proof of copying. Proof of copying may be established either by direct evidence (such as an admission) or by indirect evidence (such as demonstrating access to the original work and â€œsubstantial similarityâ€ between the original and allegedly infringing work). Â Under the current facts of this case, Gayeâ€™s family would have to prove that Thicke had access to the song (which wouldnâ€™t be difficult) and that it is substantially similar to â€œGot to Give It Up.â€ The measure to ascertain whether infringement has occurred is the importance of the part taken, not the amount taken.
In his suit, Thicke is requesting that the judge issue a ruling stating that his song does not infringe on the copyright of “Got to Give it Up” or “Sexy Ways.Â In â€œBlurred Lines,â€ Thicke claims, â€œI feel so lucky.â€Â Letâ€™s see how long that luck lastsâ€¦.
Jaia Thomas is a Los
Angeles-based sports and entertainment attorney.Â Her
multi-faceted practice covers all segments of the
entertainmentÂ industry, including: television, film,
music and new media. A nativeÂ of Cincinnati, Ohio, she
is a graduate of Colgate University (BA), TheÂ George
Washington University Law School and UCLA School of
Theater,Â Film and Television. For more information:
www.jathomaslaw.com or @jaiathomaslaw.