Round One goes to the Marvin Gaye estate.
Thanks to a California judge's ruling, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams have lost the first major battle in the war against the late singer's family over whether their breakout hit, "Blurred Lines," steals from Gaye’s "Got To Give It Up."
According to Billboard, U.S. District Judge John Kronstadt denied Thicke and Williams’ motion for summary judgement Thursday (October 30) citing that there is enough evidence to move forward with the family’s claim.
“The Gaye family have made a sufficient showing that elements of 'Blurred Lines' may be substantially similar to protected, original elements of 'Got to Give It Up’,” he wrote. “Defendants have identified these with particularity for purposes of analytic dissection."
The Paula singer and the “Get Lucky” producer filed a lawsuit back in September after they were threatened with legal action by the Gaye family, who countersued based on Thicke’s “Marvin Gaye fixation” and recent admission that he had lied to the media.
Judge Kronstadt, however, didn’t use that against Thicke in his ruling of the “inverse-ratio rule,” which means that lots of access to a song necessitates less proof of similarity.
“Thicke’s inconsistent statements do not constitute direct evidence of copying,” he wrote, while noting that Thicke’s hit uses signature phrases, hooks, bass lines, keyboard chords, harmonic structures and vocal melodies from “Got To Give It Up” and “Love After War.”
The two musicians’ attorney weighed in on the ruling.
"The ruling is not surprising given the extraordinary difficulty in prevailing at the summary judgment stage, especially where each side offers conflicting opinions from multiple musicologists,” said Howard King. “Although our musicologist, Sandy Wilbur, correctly testified that there are no two consecutive notes in the two songs that have the same pitch, the same duration, and the same placement in the measure, the Judge concluded that sufficient disagreement about other elements of the compositions warranted denial of the motion."
He continued: "We are gratified that the ruling significantly limits the issues going forward by finding that the Gaye’s cannot assert any infringement claim for elements not included in the sheet music deposited with the copyright office, which effectively eliminates 5 of their 8 claimed similarities. The jury will now decide this case on the merits, limited to what is in the written composition, without being influenced by the sound recordings. Since the compositions at issue are completely different, we remain confident of prevailing at trial."
The Gaye family lawyer felt differently.
"We believe the evidence of copying of Marvin Gaye's legendary work 'Got To Give It Up' is overwhelming and now look forward to trying the case,” said Richard Busch. “We also disagree with Mr. King's assessment that the Court ruled that there will be any limitation on what the jury considers at the trial, which involves a different analysis than what the Court analyzes on a motion for summary judgment."
Trial is set for February 10, 2015.
What do you think? Does "Blurred Lines" sound so similar to "Got To Give It Up" that it's plagiarism? Let us know in the comments.