Composer Hans Zimmer, crooner R. Kelly, and members of such bands as the Go-Go’s, the Black Crowes, Linkin Park, and Three 6 Mafia are supporting Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke, and T.I. in their appeal in the ongoing legal dispute over the hit song “Blurred Lines.”
More than 200 musicians filed a brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Los Angeles on Tuesday to express concern about the ruling last year in a case brought by the children of Marvin Gaye, who sued for copyright infringement claiming “Blurred Lines” copied Gaye’s hit “Got to Give it Up.”
The musicians said the ruling could have “adverse impact on their own creativity, on the creativity of future artists, and on the music industry in general.”
Gaye’s descendants won a $7.4 million verdict, which a judge reduced to $5.3 million.
The judgment is one of the largest damages awards in music-copyright history, and if it stands, it could have long-lasting effects on the music industry.
Rather than hinging on a particular set of notes, “Blurred Lines” was found in violation of copyright based purely on the atmospheric similarity to Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” — a “vibe” that’s a result of production choices and the rhythm pattern.
That distinction could set up a new legal precedent for what’s stealing in music, rather than simple stylistic influence. And as the new brief attests, many in the music industry have concerns about possible detriment to creativity and a wave of more litigation.
“I think that saying that Pharrell and Thicke were inspired by a genre or a feeling that they gleaned somehow from Marvin Gaye is definitely new territory in copyright infringement,” Josh Kaplan, a lawyer and manager of musicians, told Business Insider in 2015. “They were taking testimony from both Pharrell and Thicke saying that they were inspired or they wanted to come up with a sound similar to [Gaye], and that’s a stretch.”