LOS ANGELES (CN) – Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke’s battle with Marvin Gaye’s estate over “Blurred Lines” has a new trial date but a federal judge on Friday rejected a bid by the Gaye family to admit a complete recording of singer-songwriter’s “Got to Give it Up.”
U.S. District Judge John A. Kronstadt set a new trial date of Feb. 17 after the Gayes sought to delay a trial that was due to start this coming Tuesday.
A sticking point for the Gaye family was Kronstadt’s decision late last month not to allow the jury to hear the complete original recording of “Got to Give it Up” on grounds that it contained unprotected elements under copyright law.
In August 2013, pop singer Robin Thicke sued Marvin Gaye’s estate in federal court, insisting his summer hit was not a rip off of Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” or Funkadelics’s “Sexy Ways.”
The suit also named publisher Bridgeport Music, Frankie Christian Gaye, Marvin Gaye III and Nona Marvisa Gaye as defendants.
Marvin Gaye’s estate and Bridgeport Music filed counterclaims after Thicke asked a judge to declare that the 2013 hit did not violate copyright law.
As the trial date drew closer, the Gayes warned of a “dangerous and potentially devastating precedent to the owners of such intellectual property” if Kronstadt’s decision to exclude the complete recording was allowed to stand.
The judge had said that elements contained in Gaye’s sheet music were protected under copyright law but elements in the sound recordings were not.
Only an edited version of the recording without the unprotected elements could be played during trial, the judge ruled.
In a memo to the court, attorney Richard S. Busch argued that Kronstadt’s decision would allow a “clever infringer” to compare the sheet music of Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley “with the composition as embodied in the recordings of those icons, and take with impunity all compositional elements not found within the sheet music.”
Busch added that “It would create a situation where the compositions in the recordings are derivative works incapable of copyright protection because, as pre-1978 works, the recordings could not be submitted as the musical compositions.”
“That is not and cannot be the law,” Busch said.
If Kronstadt allowed his ruling to stand he should allow the Gaye family to file an interlocutory appeal to the 9th Circuit, Busch argued.
But in his Feb. 6 order the judge rejected the Gaye family’s motion for reconsideration and certification of an interlocutory appeal, writing that he was not persuaded by Busch’s contentions and the attorney had “presented no new facts.”
Kronstadt delayed the trial but put that down to the court’s “current trial schedule.” He said the trial may be delayed again because a criminal case is due to start on the same date.
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