By FRED SHUSTER
City News Service
LOS ANGELES (CNS) – In a major victory for the family of the late Marvin
Gaye, a federal jury found today that Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke
lifted portions of Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up” when they penned their
chart-topping smash “Blurred Lines,” and the panel awarded Gaye’s family
nearly $7.4 million in damages.
The eight-member panel reached its verdict on its second full day of
deliberations in downtown Los Angeles.
Some members of Gaye’s family, and even one of the family’s attorneys,
wept as the verdict was announced. The family had been seeking about $40
million in damages. The jury awarded about $4 million in damages, and roughly
$3.4 million in profits.
Williams and Thicke were not in court when the verdict was read.
At the time the Gaye song was copyrighted nearly 40 years ago, only
written music — not sound recordings — could be registered with the copyright
During two weeks of trial, jurors heard “Blurred Lines” compared to
the sheet music of “Got to Give It Up” played by a professional keyboardist
in various pre-recorded configurations.
As the jury deliberated this morning, the panel submitted a question,
asking about differences between the registered copy of the 1977 tune versus
the sheet music used by session musicians. The panel then resumed deliberating,
later asking for a clarification of language on the verdict form.
“Any of us are free to build on `Got to Give It Up’ — as long as we
don’t copy the notes of `Got to Give It Up,”’ Thicke attorney Howard King said
in his closing argument. “The Gaye family doesn’t own a genre or a groove.”
Richard Busch, retained by the Gayes, countered that Williams and Thicke
intentionally created their multimillion-selling 2013 hit as an updated copy
of the disco-tinged “Got to Give It Up.”
The jury cleared rapper Clifford “T.I.” Harris Jr. of any wrongdoing.
Williams testified last week that the two songs share “feel — not
The Gaye heirs were seeking a portion of the nearly $16.5 million in
profits “Blurred Lines” has reaped since its release two years ago.
Evidence read into the court record shows that Thicke and Williams each
earned more than $5 million from the success of the disc, while Harris — who
got a co-writing credit due to his rap part added late in the recording — made
more than $700,000.
Although jurors saw the “Blurred Lines” video and heard the song, they
were told to only consider the chords, melodies and lyrics of the songs,
rather than production elements of the recordings.
The federal lawsuit was originally brought two years ago by Thicke,
Williams and Harris Jr. as a preemptive strike to protect “Blurred Lines”
from legal claims that it was derived from the decades-old Gaye hit.
The Gaye clan then filed counterclaims alleging that Thicke’s apparent
fascination with their late father led to the misappropriation of his work in
the creation of “Blurred Lines” and in the title track of Thicke’s 2011
“Love After War” album.
In his testimony, Williams said he has loved Gaye’s music since hearing
Motown records around the house growing up.
“The last thing you want to do is take something of someone else’s when
you love him,” Williams told the jury. “If I had, I would have dealt with
it properly. It’s the fair and right and just thing to do.”
The 11-time Grammy Award winner was adamant that “Blurred Lines” and
“Got to Give It Up” were similar only in terms of genre.
“Soul music sounds like soul music,” Williams said, adding that he
understood why fans connected the two songs.
By FRED SHUSTER