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Universal cites Seventh Amendment to avoid liability in Blurred Lines case

By | Published on Wednesday 3 June 2015

Blurred Lines

Ah, yes, the Seventh Amendment. Remind me. Guns? No, that’s number two. The right to spoof the religious? No, that’s the first. Slavery, abolition thereof? Thirteen. Number seven, my friends, is the right to trial by jury in civil cases, and don’t you ever forget it. It’s why copyright cases in America end up in front of juries who always award crazy damages. And that’s something worth protecting. Simples.

Though today Universal Music is citing the seventh in a bid to avoid crazy damages as it fights off being held, in any way whatsoever, liable for Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams ripping off Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got To Give It Up’ on their hit ‘Blurred Lines’. A jury, of course, deemed earlier this year that Thicke and Williams did indeed rip off Gaye’s work, and ordered the terrible twosome to pay over $7 million in damages to the Gaye family.

Both singers want the whole matter to be considered anew in court, and Universal backs Thicke ‘N’ Pharrell in questioning the jury’s judgement. Though the mega-major is also concerned by a post-trial claim by Team Gaye that liability for the cheeky tune theft should be extended to Universal, which released ‘Lines’, and TI, who showed up at the very last minute and rapped on it. And on this point Universal is quite happy with the jury’s judgement.

The music firm argues, in a new court submission, that during the ‘Blurred Lines’ trial itself the jury specifically decided that Universal’s Interscope label and TI – real name Clifford Harris – were not liable for any plagiarism that may have occurred when the hit was written. And, Mr Judge, you can’t go messing with something the jury said, because, oh, seventh amendment, seventh amendment.

Or in the words of Universal’s lawyers, according to The Hollywood Reporter: “The court may not enter an order declaring that Clifford Harris Jr and the Interscope parties ‘are directly liable to the Gaye family for copyright infringement’ because the jury found, as to this very issue, that Harris and the Interscope parties are not liable to the Gaye parties for copyright infringement. Once a jury has decided an issue, a court may not ‘declare’ the opposite on that same issue without violating the prevailing parties’ Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial”.

So take that Team Gaye. Though the Gayes’ lawyers are claiming that because Interscope and TI clearly benefited from the commercial success of ‘Lines’, and because the jury clearly ruled that that song infringed ‘Got To Give It Up’, ignoring the label and rappers’ liability would ignore the logical conclusion of the jury’s primary judgement, and that would violate their clients’ Seventh Amendment rights.

So not so simple after all. The case, in its various guises, continues.