It seems as though Robin Thicke is on some “I gotta get mine, before you gotta get yours”, when it comes to dealing with allegations of copyright infringement and a potential lawsuit from Marvin Gaye’s family. Thicke, along with his band of merry men, Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris, Jr (aka T.I.), filed a lawsuit this week in California federal court against Marvin Gaye’s family and Bridgeport Music, which owns some of Funkadelic’s music. Apparently, Gaye’s family and Bridgeport have complaints about the similarities between “Blurred Lines” and two other songs.
The lawsuit states, “Plaintiffs, who have the utmost respect for and admiration of Marvin Gaye, Funkadelic and their musical legacies, reluctantly file this action in the face of multiple adverse claims from alleged successors in interest to those artists. Defendants continue to insist that plaintiffs’ massively successful composition, ‘Blurred Lines,’ copies ‘their’ compositions.”
The suit claims the Gaye family is alleging that “Blurred Lines” and Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” “feel” or “sound” the same, and that the “Gaye defendants are claiming ownership of an entire genre, as opposed to a specific work.”
As for Funkadelic, there’s said to be claimed similarity between Thicke’s hit and Funakedlic’s “Sexy Ways.”
“But there are no similarities between plaintiffs’ composition and those the claimants allege they own, other than commonplace musical elements,” states the lawsuit. “Plaintiffs created a hit and did it without copying anyone else’s composition.”
A New York TImes critic has noted that “Blurred Lines” is “influenced heavily” by Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up,” but the lawsuit makes the point that “being reminiscent of a ‘sound’ is not copyright infringement. The intent in producing ‘Blurred Lines’ was to evoke an era.”
Let’s take a listen to both songs. Here’s Marvin Gaye’s song, “Got to Give It Up”, which by the way, my grandmother loves.
And now here’s Robin Thicke’s, “Blurred Lines”.
That bell pattern and bass line, sound familiar?
Because copyright and plagiarism lawsuits are never cut and dry, the Gaye family may have a few issues on their hands. The lawsuit states, “The Gayes do not have an interest in the copyright to the composition ‘Got To Give It Up’ sufficient to confer standing on them to pursue claims of infringement of that composition.”
These lawyers aren’t dumb.
Basically they’re saying that the Gayes don’t own the copyright of the song, so they can’t sue. Even though the family is still receiving royalties from Marvin’s music, “Got to Give It Up” is owned by EMI Music Publishing and the master recordings are owned by Universal Music. With that said, the family technically can’t sue Thicke, T.I., or Pharrell.
The Gaye family and Bridgeport Music threatened to sue if Thicke does not provide a settlement. Thicke and his crew are now going to court to determine if they have any obligation to the family.
If they win, Thicke, Williams and Harris Jr. want the record to state that they did not violate the defendant’s’ rights by copying their songs, but also that the “Gayes do not have an interest in the copyright to the composition ‘Got To Give It Up’ sufficient to confer standing on them to pursue claims of infringement of that composition.”