Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Robin Thicke and the “Blurred Lines” Controversy

Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” became an immediate hit in America. The controversial song, featuring T.I. and Parrell Williams, was so popular that it was named Billboard’s Song of the Summer for 2013. However, “Blurred Lines” was immediately plagued with controversy. The song was bashed for allegedly condoning rape, excessive female nudity, and objectification of women. 

With the popularity of the song also came hints of a copyright infringement and threats of legal action stemming from Marvin Gaye’s family. The family hinted that “Blurred Lines” was ripped off from Marvin Gaye’s songs “Got to Give it Up” and “Sexy Ways.”  So, in hopes of protecting themselves and preempt legal action, Thicke and Pharrell filed suit against Marvin Gaye’s Family and Bridgeport Music, stating that the “Gaye defendants are claiming ownership of an entire gene, as opposed to specific work,” and sought decaratory relief.  Shortly thereafter, Gaye’s family countersued Thicke, alleging that “Blurred Lines” was a blatant rip off and “Got to Give it Up.” While Marvin Gaye’s family settled their claims against Robin Thicke’s label, EMI, which is owned by Song/ATV Music Publishing, the case went on against Thicke and Williams.
While the controversy between the Thicke camp and the Gaye family was already making headlines, things became downright shocking when the contents of Thicke’s deposition were uncovered. In his deposition, Thicke stated that he could not have copied “Got to Give It Up” because he was “high on Vicodin and alcohol” when it was written. Even more, Thicke blamed the entire thing on Williams, saying that Williams was the one who actually wrote “Blurred Lines.” This deposition came after Thicke was interviewed by GQ and told the magazine that he and Williams wrote the song together in a half an hour, after telling Williams that “Got to Give It Up” was one of his favorite songs.  In order to explain these apparent discrepancies, Thicke stated he lied from the beginning. “Blurred Lines” was the biggest hit of his career and Thicke wanted the credit for it, so, Thicke explained, he lied out of jealously and told everyone he wrote the song. While Thicke admitted he was present when Williams apparently wrote the song, he states that he was high on Vicodin and drunk. Moreover, in the deposition, Thicke stated that he was a liar, and that because he is a liar, they should believe that he did not tell GQ the truth about who wrote “Blurred Lines.” The attorney conducting the deposition asked Thicke if he considered himself “an honest person” and Thicke responded “[n]o, that’s why I’m separated.”  Essentially, Thicke argued that he could not be sued for copyright infringement because he was too drunk and high to have written the song, and that he is a liar so he should not be believed.

 As of October 30, 2014, a California judge ruled that the Gaye’s made a sufficient showing that “Blurred Lines” might be similar to “Got to Give it Up.” The judge stated that there are genuine issues of material fact regarding elements of the songs such as signature phrases, hooks, and vocal melodies. Now the case will be handed to a jury. It appears that the judge’s ruling limits the Gaye’s ability to sue for copyright infringement to solely the sheet music that has been deposited with the United States Copyright Office. However, Gaye’s family disagrees that the judge limited what the jury could consider in any way.

I, for one, am anxiously for the next jaw dropping development to arise from this controversy. I can’t help but wonder how Thicke’s attorney will handle Thicke’s drunken and high argument with a jury.

Sara Montgomery, Staff Editor 

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