Appeals Court Sides with Marvin Gaye's Family in "Blurred Lines" Copyright Case

I what sounds like a disastrous and irrational decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a previous verdict and awarded $5.3 million to the Gaye family.  Two judges sided with the Marvin Gaye's family, while one judge wrote an important and scathing dissent, supporting the defendants Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams.

Dissenting Judge Jacqueline Nguyen offered a harsh dissent, saying that the songs resemble each other only in style not substance and that the decision was detrimental to the future of artists and creativity.

"The majority allows the Gayes to accomplish what no one has before: copyright a musical style," Nguyen wrote. "'Blurred Lines' and 'Got to Give It Up' are not objectively similar. They differ in melody, harmony, and rhythm. Yet by refusing to compare the two works, the majority establishes a dangerous precedent that strikes a devastating blow to future musicians and composers everywhere."

You can find similarities in style between many pop songs. Most rock songs have essentially the same drum beat. Most pop music uses the same four chords and often the same chord progressions.  "Blurred Lines" and "Got to Give it Up" have similarities, but I have never thought they sounded the same and the fact is that the Williams/Thicke song differs in more ways from the Gaye song than they are alike.  It's a good thing that one judge saw that, but I think this ruling is going to make these types of lawsuits more common. That's good for lawyers, but not songwriters.

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