Intellectual Property Attorney

Summer Blockbuster ‘Blurred Lines’ At Center Of Heated Copyright Melee

While the summer blockbuster “Blurred Lines” has been dominating playlists at radio stations around the world, the writers of the hit song are facing allegations of copyright infringement from multiple sources. According to an action filed by the writers (Robin Thicke, Pharrel Williams and Clifford Harris, Jr.), the successors-in-interest to musician Marvin Gaye and the band Funkadelic claim “Blurred Lines” “copies ‘their’ compositions”. In particular, it is alleged that ‘Blurred Lines’ copies Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” and Funkadelic’s “Sexy Ways”. According to their Complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the writers claim “there are no similarities between plaintiffs’ composition [“Blurred Lines”] and those the claimants allege they own, other than commonplace musical elements. Plaintiffs created a hit and did it without copying anyone else’s composition.”

Gaye’s son, Marvin Gaye III reportedly told TMZ, “We’re not happy with the way that he went about doing business, let alone suing us for something where he clearly got his inspiration from at the least.” In May, Thicke gave an interview with
GQ magazine that specifically identified Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” as inspiration for “Blurred Lines”: “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.'”

Several media reports seem to suggest that the filing of the writer’s lawsuit is unusual. However, it is not uncommon for potential defendants in an intellectual property infringement action to beat their accusers to court and seek a “declaratory judgment”. Declaratory judgment actions can be a very effective tool to resolve rights and uncertainty. In this case, the writers surely don’t want the rights of “Blurred Lines” to be in limbo because it could threaten their ability to continue to profit from the song.

In a blog next week, we will look more closely at the elements of “copyright infringement” using this case as an example.

The case is Thicke v. Bridgeport Music, Inc., 13-06004, pending in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

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