Judge Skeptical of ‘Blurred Lines’ Damages


     LOS ANGELES (CN) – A federal judge Monday said he is not inclined to grant Pharrell Williams a new trial in his “Blurred Lines” copyright case against Marvin Gaye’s family but called a $1.6 million profits award excessive.
     U.S. District Judge John Kronstadt issued a tentative ruling on various post-trial motions after the $7.4 million jury verdict that stunned the music industry.
     In 2013, R&B star Robin Thicke and Pharrell sued Marvin Gaye’s family for a declaration that “Blurred Lines” did not infringe on the copyright of Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.”
     Thicke shared credit with Pharrell, who created and produced the song, and with rapper T.I. They claimed their composition merely evoked an era and the feel of Gaye’s music.
     They sued Frankie Christian Gaye, Nona Gaye and Marvin Gaye III, who responded with counterclaims that “Blurred Lines” copied their father’s 1977 Motown hit. The family prevailed after a trial in Kronstadt’s courtroom this year.
     The verdict is “supported by the substantial evidence,” Kronstadt said Monday in his downtown courtroom, and the jury’s actual damages award of $4 million, based on publishing profits, is reasonable.
     But the judge said he would review the $1.6 million award against Pharrell for his “Blurred Lines” profits.
     “I think this is excessive,” Kronstadt said at a morning hearing to argue the motions, which included the Gayes’ request for an injunction against continued distribution and exploitation of “Blurred Lines,” or ongoing royalties.
     Pharrell’s attorney Howard King went a step further, calling the damages award of $4 million “grossly excessive.” King said the jury based the award on 50 percent of $8 million in publishing revenue, but that the real number is closer to $5.7 million.
     He said the $1.6 million profits award against Pharrell was unsupported by evidence because it represents almost 200 percent of the producer’s profits from “Blurred Lines.”
     Claiming that the jury had got every “facet” of the case wrong and asking for a new trial, King wrote in a filing that the judgment against Pharrell appeared to be based on “who the jury disliked most” and told Kronstadt that it seemed jurors wanted to “punish” his client.
     “The only explanation we have is punishment of Mr. Williams with this grossly excessive award,” King said.
     Jurors awarded the Gayes about 41 percent of Thicke’s earnings from “Blurred Lines.”
     The Gayes’ attorney Richard Busch urged the court to award 40 percent to 100 percent of Pharrell’s profits if the ruling went against them.
     Busch said the award against Pharrell should be harsher because of his “greater role” in creating “Blurred Lines.”
     Busch said an injunction against the continued distribution and exploitation of “Blurred Lines” was preferable to an ongoing 50 percent cut of royalties. He said an injunction was “very important” to the family to ensure that their father received credit for his creation.
     Kronstadt said he would give the parties one week to file supporting briefs before he issues a final order.

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