Blurred Lines Sued – Good or Bad Thing?

We saw this story a few times today: Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were sued, and lost, over their hit song “Blurred Lines.” Why, you ask? Was it for those lyrics, and how they are so problematic? Or maybe it’s for that R-rated version of the music video.

Nope, for the music. The case found that they got too close to the music from Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up.” You know what this calls for? More videos below!

In the Sourcefed video they reference people combining the two songs into one video. Like this one:

That flows pretty well song to song. The singing is so different, but I could maybe see it. I kind of wonder how you even notice in the first place, but it sounds like Thicke and Pharrell have been open about the fact they were “inspired” by Marvin Gaye’s song. Maybe mentioning that is where this started from. What do you think?

What amazed me was that the case got to this point – that it got to the point that a whole trial happened, that there wasn’t some plea deal. That it got to set this precedent.

I am reminded of cases like the Kirby Estate vs. Marvel case last year. Days from a conclusion in the Supreme Court, it was settled. Why? In part, like so many cases, to avoid the precedent, to not actually be accused of any wrongdoing, and to walk away from it.

Instead, here we have these two musicians (or one musician and Robin Thicke) basically being accused of imitating too closely. This seems incredibly subjective to me. What about songs that “sample” other songs? What about a recent song like “Anaconda?”

What about covers? The Internet is full of those. Holly shared a cover artist here on the blog just recently. It can be a dangerous line to walk – and a $7 victory like this could get others interested in pursuing a legal case regarding their music.

And then there’s parody. That’s more clearly lined up by copyright law – and thanks to “Blurred Lines,” we have one of the very best parody songs. So was it all worth it?

You tell me in the comments below – too far for copyright enforcement? Or could it not have happened to a better song? You decide!

That was sarcastic.

That was sarcastic.

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13 responses to “Blurred Lines Sued – Good or Bad Thing?

  1. The background rhythms, bass line, etc are almost identical. The vocals are different but have a very similar feel. I can see it.

    If you use a sample you have to pay the original artist. A lot of people don’t and hope they get away with it. Sometimes they get sued. The Verve got sued by the Rolling Stones because they used a sample from “The Last Time” on their big hit “Bittersweet Symphony”. They lost every penny they made. Actually, the sample was made from an orchestra’s version of the song, not the Stones’ original. Even George Harrison got sued over “My Sweet Lord”. The court found he had “subconsciously” borrowed from the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine”, though he claimed to use a public domain church hymn as the base and claimed the Chiffons might have used that same hymn.

    If you do a cover all song writing proceeds go to the song owner.

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    • In theory. The last sentence should end with in theory. In practice? Likely much less, although I imagine covers that make it onto albums should be in good shape.

      Then there’s the even more awkward stuff – YouTube videos. Like the ones I included – are the rights there going to the artists? Well Word Crimes yes, that’s from Weird Al’s Vevo. But the Marvin Gaye song?

      Thank you for all your insights πŸ™‚

      Like

      • Were there’s something that involves money you can bet the lawyers have been there ; ) With YouTube the rights should go to the artist. There are agencies that look at how often things are played, etc. I’ve started posting music I wrote and have “monetized ” my channel and YouTube talks about it there. And being part of a performance arts agency, like BMI or ASCAP helps because they go out and collect for the writer/composer.

        If you monetize your channel and post music owned by others then you can get in trouble.

        I’m not super interested in the subject, but unfortunately I have to study it a little since I’m publishing music.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. NotAPunkRocker

    Everything Trent said, plus I will add Vanilla Ice vs. Queen/Bowie as another example πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m tone deaf so every song sounds the same to me, but I see it in the video with them together. I’m all for sampling and covers with permission, but creative content is tricky. It’s always better to contact the originator. People steal people’s jokes all the time and as a content creator I always make sure I credit the source, baring the old classics. Sometimes we do “inspire” each other and really don’t even realize it though in this case they did realize it. And I love how you said one musician and Creepy McCreeperton. He just looks rapey.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a good thing he wasn’t singing a song that sounded all rapey… oh wait, nope. Fathers, lock up your daughters. Actually, just everybody stay away…

      Some of the problem is how much most kinds of art and entertainment are built on that which came before. To some extent it is inspiration, but eventually it apparently crosses the line. Most of modern fantasy is owed to Lord of the Rings, and that’s a debt that will never be paid!

      Like

  4. I have nothing really to add about the differences in all of those things that others haven’t already noted, but it you are imitating a song (ie, ripping off) then that’s a problem. But sampling/parody/covers are all, usually, accredited. Covers not so much, I admit, but at least in the CD book or MP4 metadata, the original artist is credited. Not so with the former.

    Liked by 1 person

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