Blurring the Lines Between Influence and Copying

Mar 11, 2015

The hit Blurred Lines, penned by Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke, was Grammy nominated and generated more than £10.8m in profits. However, it has not been without controversy including a claim for copyright infringement, issued in 2013 in the US, by Marvin Gaye’s children.

Following Marvin Gaye’s death in 1984, his children became the owners of the copyright  in his music. The Gaye family alleged that Blurred Lines copied one of Marvin Gaye’s tracks, Got to Give it Up. Pharrell Williams gave evidence that whilst the music might have formed part of the soundtrack of his youth it was not on his mind when the song was written. Despite the evidence of Williams and Thicke a US jury found that there had been a breach of copyright and awarded the Gaye family £4.8m in damages. This case may yet run on, with the Gaye family seeking an injunction prohibiting further sales and the legal team for Williams and Thicke considering their options. 

So often the music of one generation influences that of the next but how fine is that line between influence and copying and did it just get a little bit finer?

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