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Tuesday, June 11, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Jury gives Gaye family $7.4M in ‘Blurred Lines’ copyright case

LOS ANGELES (CN) — A federal jury Tuesday awarded the three adult children of the late Marvin Gaye $7.4 million, concluding that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams' "Blurred Lines" contains elements of Gaye's "Got to Give It Up."
The five-women, three-man jury delivered the verdict at about 2:15 p.m., after beginning deliberations last Thursday.
In addition to a damages total of $4 million, Pharrell will pay $1,610,455.31 and Thicke $1,768,191.88 for an award of $7,378,647.19.
The jury of five women and three men also awarded $9,375 in statutory damages, but ruled that the infringement was not willful under copyright law.
Neither rapper T.I. (Clifford Harris Jr.), who provided guest vocals on the track, nor record companies Interscope and UMG Distribution are liable for damages. The jurors found they did not contribute to the infringement.
Calling the verdict and her attorney Richard Busch a "miracle" a tearful Nona Marvisa Gaye told reporters outside the Edward R. Roybal Federal Courthouse: "Right now, I feel free. Free from ... Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke's chains and what they tried to keep on us and the lies that were told."
The Gayes' attorney Busch also asked presiding U.S. District Judge John Kronstadt to issue an injunction against distribution of "Blurred Lines."
Thicke and Pharrell were not in court when the jury delivered its verdict. Their attorney Howard King said he is weighing their options.
"We like to say we're in the seventh inning and we'll consider those options," King said outside the courthouse, declining to say whether he would appeal.
In 2013, Thicke and his co-creators sued Marvin Gaye's family in Federal Court for a declaration that "Blurred Lines" did not violate copyright.
Thicke shared credit with Pharrell, who produced the record. They claimed that the song only evoked an era, and the feel of Marvin Gaye's music.
They made the preemptive claims against Frankie Christian Gaye, Nona Gaye and Marvin Gaye III, who responded with counterclaims that the plaintiffs had ripped off the 1977 Motown hit without their permission.
Several eye-opening details about "Blurred Lines" emerged during the nine-day trial.
Thicke said during a deposition that he was drunk and high on Vicodin when the hit was recorded, and that he had exaggerated his contribution to the song.
On the witness stand last week, Pharrell told jurors that he had been working with Miley Cyrus in another room when he recorded the track at a Burbank studio in June 2012.
He said his work with Cyrus had influenced "Blurred Lines."
"My mind was already on that yodely, bluegrassy thing," Pharrell said.
Pharrell did not discuss Gaye with Thicke, and Gaye never crossed his mind during recordings, he testified.
But in 2013, both Pharrell and Thicke acknowledged Gaye's influence and specifically named "Got to Give It Up."
Thicke told GQ magazine in May 2013: "Pharrell and I were in the studio and I told him that one of my favorite songs of all time was Marvin Gaye's 'Got to Give It Up.' I was like, 'Damn, we should make something like that, something with that groove.'"
In a television interview with Hip Hollywood, Pharrell also acknowledged Gaye's influence.
"Were you inspired by him for that song?" the interviewer asked.
"Oh, for sure. Totally," Pharrell said. "But this is the thing. What I tried to do was I tried to take the feeling that 'Got to Give It Up' gave me but I also tried to blend in Southern white Baptist harmonies on the chorus. And then, you know, sex is also a good element to inject in anything."
Though Pharrell said during trial that his comments were made in hindsight, Busch repeatedly hammered both stars for their statements.
"When you lie, there are consequences," Busch told the jury during closing arguments.
The trial revealed how much "Blurred Lines" creators had taken home after the platinum hit became one of the best-selling singles of all time.
"Blurred Lines" sold more that 7.2 million copies in the United States. Of the more than $16 million in profits, Pharrell and Thicke each earned more than $5 million, and T.I. took home $700,000. The rest went to Interscope, UMG Distribution and Pharrell's company, Star Trak.
Ownership of the composition was split between the three performers.
Thicke owns 22 percent, Pharrell 65 percent and T.I. 13 percent, according to court records.
Also at issue was Thicke's 2011 single "Love After War," which the Gayes claimed lifted elements from their father's song, "After the Dance."
The jury let Thicke and his ex-wife and co-creator Paula Patton off the hook on that count, finding that "Love After War" did not infringe on Gaye's 1976 single.
The Gaye family had asked for $25 million in damages.

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