Earlier this year, a jury awarded the Marvin Gaye family $7.36 million from Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and T.I. for copying Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up” when writing their hit song “Blurred Lines.” On Monday, December 7, 2015, Thicke, Pharrell, and T.I. appealed to the Ninth Circuit.
The copyright infringement suit was commenced in August 2013 in a California federal court by the Estate of Marvin Gaye. The Estate argued that “Blurred Lines” — the most popular song in the world in 2013 — was “substantially similar” to Gaye’s 1977 No. 1 hit, and thus infringing. It was reported that Thicke offered the Gaye Family a “six-figure” settlement offer, which was rejected. The most likely reason being an interview Thicke gave with GQ in May 2013. Speaking about how “Blurred Lines” came about, Thicke said:
Pharrell and I were in the studio and I told him that one of my favorite songs of all time was Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” I was like, ‘Damn, we should make something like that, something with that groove’ Then he started playing a little something and we literally wrote the song in about a half hour and recorded it. The whole thing was done in a couple of hours.
Thicke attempted to backtrack from his statements during the trial, testifying in his April 2014 deposition that Pharrell really wrote the song. Thicke testified that he was high on Vicodin and drunk when he showed up at the studio to “write” the song, and that he does not recall contributing. Pharrell agreed that Thicke did not write the song, but was still given a writer credit. However, Pharrell was pushed on the issue of whether he could read sheet music during his own deposition, and fumbled when he was show a song transcript and asked to identify the musical elements.
After a California jury reached a verdict in favor of the Estate, the judge reduced the award from $7.36 million to $5.3 million, but further held that half of all future royalties from “Blurred Lines” would go to the Gaye family. Pharrell, Thicke, and T.I., dissatisfied with the ruling, stated this is “a horrible precedent for music and creativity going forward.” The artists, as well as other critics of the decision, believe that “Blurred Lines” only borrowed “stock elements” of the genre at issue.
The Gaye family attorney told TheWrap that he remains “confident that the appeal will be without merit.”