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Marvin Gaye estate and Bridgeport Music, Inc. vs Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams

2015 • In the media • USA, 9th Circuit, California

Claimant Work: Got To Give It Up

Defendant Work: Blurred Lines

The Case

blurb to follow


Funkadelic released their song Sexy Ways in 1974. Marvin Gaye wrote and recorded Got To Give It Up in December 1976 and released it as a single in March 1977.

Blurred Lines was written and recorded in 2012 and released in March 2013. The writers were Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and the rapper Clifford Harris (a.k.a. T.I.).

The chronology of legal activity surrounding this case is interesting.

August 2013: Blurred Lines writers seek 'declaratory relief'

The first move came from the writers of Blurred Lines, Williams, Thicke and Harris, who "reluctantly" filed a law suit for declaratory relief in August 2013 against the three children of Marvin Gaye, and Bridgeport Music, the publishers of Funkadelic's song Sexy Ways. This action was prompted by suggestions from the children of Marvin Gaye and Bridgeport, the publishers of a number of Funkadelic's songs, that Blurred Lines infringed their copyrights, and that a monetary settlement was required in order to avoid litigation.

George Clinton, co-writer of Sexy Ways, tweeted support for Williams and Thicke in August 2013, stating that there was "no sample" of Blurred Lines in Sexy Ways.

The original trial verdict was delivered on 10 March 2015 by US District Judge John Kronstadt. The jury of five women and three men. The damages were set at $4m plus profits calculated for Thicke at $1.8m and Williams $1.6m.

Various post-trial motions were filed by both sides, and the judge denied The award was reduced to $5.3m on 14 July 2015, after the defendants appealed for relief against an excessive jury award, but with an order to pay 50% of future royalties from Blurred Lines to the Gaye Family.

On 24 August 2016 the Blurred Lines authors lodged an appeal brief with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in LA.

Case for infringement

Robin Thicke had gone on the record in an interview with GQ Magazine recalling being in the studio with Pharrell Williams. "I told him that one of my favorite songs of all time was Marvin Gaye’s Got to Give It Up. I was like, "Damn, we should make something like that, something with that groove.""

Case against infringement

Score Comparisons

Got To Give It Up

(Gaye) © EMI Music/Jobete Music. Recording by Marvin Gaye ℗ 1977, Tamla Records.

Got To Give It Up

Blurred Lines

(Williams/Thicke/Harris) © EMI Music Publishing Ltd, Universal/MCA Music Ltd, Sony/ATV Music Publishing (UK) Ltd. Recording by Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell ℗ 2013, Star Track, Interscope Records. Score transposed up a tone from G major original for ease of comparison.

Blurred Lines

What do you think?

Safe 70% Safe
Infringing 30% Infringing

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