A US jury has decided that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ runaway 2013 hit ‘Blurred Lines’ copied Marvin Gaye’s 1977 single ‘Got To Give It Up’.
The pair must pay $7.3m (£4.8m) to Gaye’s family following the ruling at the US District Court in Los Angeles.
The lawsuit was brought by Gaye’s children Nona, Frankie and Marvin Gaye III, who inherited the copyright to the soul legend’s music following his death in 1984.
Nona, who wept as the verdict was read, said: “Right now, I feel free. Free from… Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke’s chains and what they tried to keep on us and the lies that were told.”
Thicke and Williams’ lawyer Howard E King said: “While we respect the judicial process, we are extremely disappointed in the ruling made today, which sets a horrible precedent for music and creativity going forward. We are reviewing the decision, considering our options and you will hear more from us soon about this matter.”
Attorney Richard Busch, who represents the Gaye family, told Rolling Stone that the victors will be seeking to prevent further sales of the track until agreements have been made over future royalties. He said: “We’ll be asking the court to enter an injunction prohibiting the further sale and distribution of ‘Blurred Lines’ unless and until we can reach an agreement with those guys on the other side about how future monies that are received will be shared. We’ll be doing that in about a week or so.”
The trial came as a result of a pre-emptive August 2013 lawsuit filed by Thicke and Williams who, fearing the Gayes would be litigious, sought to affirm that ‘Blurred Lines’ is “strikingly different” to ‘Got to Give It Up’. US District Judge John Kronstadt denied their request and said a jury must decide “the intrinsic similarity of the works”.
During the trial, which began on February 25, Williams spent more than an hour describing his musical process and he how he came to write ‘Blurred Lines’, which took him about one hour in 2012. Though he admitted a similarity between the track and ‘Got To Give It Up’, he said the Gaye song never entered his head during the writing process, merely that he was “channelling… that late-’70s feeling”.
Singer Thicke performed a medley of songs in court as evidence that many tracks share similar chords and melodies without necessarily copying one another. His performance included tracks by artists including U2, Bob Marley and The Beatles.
In his deposition, Thicke admitted that he had little to do with the song beyond singing the lead vocal, as he was “high on Vicodin and alcohol when [he] showed up at the studio.” He said: “I started kind of convincing myself that I was a little more part of it than I was and I – because I didn’t want him – I wanted some credit for this big hit. But the reality is, is that Pharrell had the beat and he wrote almost every single part of the song.”
It is thought that Pharrell and Thicke have earned over $5m (£3m) each from the profits of the Grammy-winning single. Total profits from the single are estimated to exceed $16m (£10.8), and it has sold well over 1million copies in the UK, taking the title of 2013’s biggest selling single.
‘Blurred Lines’ was banned by a number of student unions across the UK following allegations that the video is sexist and the lyrics promote non-consensual sex. In an interview with the BBC, Thicke said: “I don’t think people got it out here in the UK in those positions of power. I think the kids get it. I just have to deal with that. I wrote it about my wife. She’s my good girl. And I know she wants it because we’ve been together for 20 years so I can vouch for that”.
A comparison of ‘Blurred Lines’ and ‘Got To Give It Up’ can be heard below.