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Copyright Mixtape: How The "Blurred Lines" Lawsuit Could Change Music Forever

Copyright Mixtape How The Blurred Lines Lawsuit Could Change Music Forever


Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams are headed to court next week to refute claims that their 2013 tune "Blurred Lines" infringed on Marvin Gaye's hit "Got To Give It Up."

If you believe the doom and gloom of the Gaye estate's lawyers, the case is controversial because it could rewrite the rulebook on what copyright infringement means for musicians. The judge has decided to allow a jury to hear only the copyrighted elements of Gaye's 1977 hit song — a bizarre twist — and the Gaye lawyers fear that his decision will expose historic music to widespread copying.

But just what are the 'copyrighted elements'? Answering that question is a bizarre opportunity to look at pop culture through the eyes of the law, brushing aside things like, you know,percussion.

When you listen to the two songs, there's no question: they kind of sound alike — the upfrontness of the stepwise bass lines, the falsetto lead vocal, the percussion style, the party in the background. But none of these elements are found in the sheet music, which is what Marvin Gaye's people registered with the Copyright Office.


When we say a song "sounds like" a certain era, it's because artists in that era were doing a lot of the same things — or, yes, copying each other. If copyright were to extend out past things like the melody to really cover the other parts that make up the "feel" of a song, there's no way an era, or a city, or a movement could have a certain sound. Without that, we lose the next disco, the next Motown, the next batch of protest songs.

Stashed in: Intellectual Property, Music, Copying, Lawyers!, @robinthicke, @pharrell, Music Industry, @samsmithworld

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They really do sound alike. 

Sam Smith decided to give Tom Petty 12.5% royalties based on that type of similarity.

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