LOS ANGELES (Hypebot) – Robin Thicke, Pharrel Williams, and T.I. lost their copyright infringement lawsuit to the tune of owing over $7 million to the Gaye estate. If the verdict stands, what does that mean for songwriting as we know it?
The jury awarded the estate of Marvin Gaye more than $7 million today in a copyright infringement decision against artist Robin Thicke and songwriters Pharrell Williams and T.I. over their huge 2013 hit “Blurred Lines.” The jury decided that the song was just too similar to Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got To Give It Up” to be a coincidence, even thought that’s probably exactly what it was.
This is just another example of the blurred line (pun intended) between a copy and an influence that permeates not only modern music, but just about any creative endeavor.
We’re all influenced by the art and/or craft that we love, and that influence seeps into our every creation whether we like it or not. Sometimes in music it’s totally obvious (the famous George Harrison “My Sweet Lord” vs. “He’s So Fine” by The Chiffonslawsuit), and other times its less so (Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” vs. Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down”), but with only 12 notes and a limited number of chord progressions that are pleasing to the Western ear, one might think that it’s surprising that there aren’t more lawsuits for copyright infringement than there already are.
Take the blues, for instance. Pick just about any blues album and you’ll find that not only does each song liberally borrow from countless blues songs by countless blues artists before, but even from songs on the same album. 12 bar blues is that for a reason, and although it’s nice when there’s a variation, you won’t find too many artists messing with a formula that’s worked for 75 years. Do we see any copyright infringement suits there?