The plot has thickened around Robin Thicke’s heavily publicized “Blurred Lines” copyright lawsuit. With Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris Jr. (a.k.a. rapper T.I.), Thicke sued Marvin Gaye’s relatives in 2013 for claiming that “Blurred Lines” plagiarized Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got To Give It Up.” Thicke lost the case on the grounds that his tune shared the “total concept and feel” of Gaye’s song.
Yesterday, 212 artists—including Jennifer Hudson and members of Train, Fall Out Boy, Weezer, Linkin Park and Earth, Wind & Fire—signed an amicus brief arguing that musical “feel[s]” can and should be imitated, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “By eliminating any meaningful standard for drawing the line between permissible inspiration and unlawful copying,” the brief states, “the judgment is certain to stifle creativity and impede the creative process.”
The groove of “Blurred Lines” is undeniably reminiscent of “Got To Give It Up.” They are at a close tempo and have similar syncopated cowbell and cymbal hits. Beyond this, there are few concrete likenesses, as the songs do not share lyrics, keys, melodies or even a string of two chords.
The brief’s signees fear that the court’s decision threatens the long-established songwriting practice of borrowing ideas from musical predecessors. All artists all have influences. The brief points out that Gaye’s own publisher did not believe “Blurred Lines” to be plagiarized, refusing to sue.
One wonders how Gaye, who died in 1984, would have viewed this situation. Maybe he’s in Motown Heaven right now, sheepishly thinking of how he himself got ideas for “Got To Give It Up” from Johnnie Taylor’s 1976 song “Disco Lady.”
Find the artists’ amicus brief here via Scribd.