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Blurred Lines case shouldn’t have gone to a jury, says lawyer

By | Published on Thursday 27 April 2017

Blurred Lines

Why did the question of whether or not Robin Thicke and Pharrell Wiliams’ ‘Blurred Lines’ ripped off Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got To Give It Up’ even go to jury? I mean, we all know about juries, right? Never trust a jury.

The appeal process in the high profile ‘Blurred Lines’ song-theft case continues to rumble on with a new submission from lawyers repping Thicke and Williams, who want the original ruling in favour of the Gaye family overturned. In the new filing, the ‘Blurred Lines’ twosome’s legal reps argue that their clients should have won the case on summary judgement, without the whole matter being taken to jury trial.

As much previously reported, one of the key issues in the ‘Lines’ case is what elements of ‘Got To Give It Up’ are actually protected by copyright. The dispute was over the song, not the recording, and technically under American law only the core composition of ‘Got To Give It Up’ as registered with the country’s Copyright Office has copyright protection. Lawyers for Thicke and Williams argue that any similarity between ‘Blurred Lines’ and ‘Got To Give It Up’ are in the original recordings of the two songs, which have the same ‘vibe’, rather than the core compositions.

The argument goes that a jury couldn’t be expected to appreciate these complexities and – while the judge didn’t allow the original recording of ‘Got To Give It Up’ to be played in court – lawyers for the Gaye family gave evidence that related to the recording rather than the core composition.

Say the duo’s lawyers in their latest court filing, according to The Hollywood Reporter: “The two songs in this case are not the same, and the district court should have granted summary judgment. Rather than address the fatal flaws in their musicology evidence, the Gayes attempted to distract the court with irrelevant issues and assert a copyright in musical elements beyond those found in their copyrighted work, which is the lead sheet – and not the sound recording – to Marvin Gaye’s musical composition ‘Got To Give It Up'”.

The filing adds that just because musicologists disagree on whether or not two songs a sufficiently similar to constitute copyright infringement, that alone shouldn’t necessitate a jury trial. “The district court erred in holding that the issue of substantial similarity was for the jury just because the musicology experts presented conflicting opinions,” say the lawyers. “Under the district court’s approach, musical composition cases would enjoy special immunity from summary judgment determinations merely because the parties offer competing musicology experts”.

Beyond all those legal technicalities, the latest submission again returns to the long-running inspiration-v-infringement debate, and the argument that the ruling in the ‘Lines’ case sets a dangerous precedent. “A ‘groove’ or ‘feeling’ cannot be copyrighted, and inspiration is not copying”, adds the legal filing.

Fun times.