(Photo : YouTube)
Artists rely on innovators. They draw from their influences and expand with their own conception. This can create nuances. There are so many similarities in art due to this natural process that the lines of intellectual property can be blurred. It’s impossible to gauge to what degree someone may have drawn from their influences and how much of the final product they came up with themselves. These blurred lines have existed since the dawn of time, since the age of Leonardo and Michelangelo, since baroque composers and all the way up across every genre of art. It’s how art evolves and it’s how the boundaries are pushed. Although no matter how beneficial this train of progress, these nuances and blurred lines can cause complications, especially as the rules of intellectual property become tighter.
Back in August, R&B singer Robin Thicke filed a lawsuit against the Gaye family, who claimed that the singer’s song “Blurred Lines” copied Marvin Gaye’s classic “Got to Give It Up.” The case hit a lull with no major developments, until now. On Wednesday, the family responded to Thicke’s lawsuit with counterclaims alleging that he stole not only “Blurred Lines,” but also committed copyright infringement on Gaye’s “After the Dance” for his song “Love After War,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. New legal papers even suggest that Thicke’s “Marvin Gaye fication” ripples throughout his repertoire.
And the family keeps on digging. They also claim that EMI April, the song publisher now owned by Sony/ATV that has ties to both parties, has breached contract by failing to protect Gaye’s songs and attempting to intimidate the family against filing any legal action. They accuse the publisher of failing to remain neutral when faced with a conflict of interest and attempting to turn public opinion against them. The family suggests that EMI should lose all profits on “Blurred Lines,” as well as the rights to administer Gaye’s song catalog.
After months of silence, the Gay family came back swinging hard. If anything, Thicke’s defense did nothing to deter their advances, but rather fuel the fire. His suit, in brief summary, states that the Gaye family is alleging that "Blurred Lines" and Gaye's "Got to Give It Up" "feel" and "sound" the same, and that "Gaye defendants are claiming ownership of an entire genre, as opposed to a specific work."
"But there are no similarities between plaintiffs' composition and those the claimants allege they own, other than commonplace musical elements," it argues. "Plaintiffs created a hit and did it without copying anyone else's composition."
The singer later attempted to coddle the Gaye family by offering them a six figure settlement in order to preempt the copyright infringement, a sum that the family deemed unworthy. "We're not happy with the way that [Thicke] went about doing business," said Gaye III. "Let alone suing us for something where he clearly got his inspiration from at the least."
As the case proceeds, the court will be left with a daunting decision that could change the way intellectual property is treated within the music industry. Copyright authority includes the ability to control “derivative works,” but it’s ultimately up to the courts to make subjective objections of how similar is too similar. Once again, blurred lines.
This could change everything.