LOS ANGELES (CN) – R&B singer Robin Thicke “reluctantly” sued Marvin Gaye’s estate, insisting his hit “Blurred Lines” does not violate copyright on tunes by Gaye or the Funkadelics.
Thicke and his collaborators on “Blurred Lines,” singer-producer Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris Jr. pka T.I., seek declaratory judgment in Federal Court.
They sued Bridgeport Music, Frankie Christian Gaye, Marvin Gaye III and Nona Marvisa Gaye, in Federal Court.
“Plaintiffs, who have the utmost respect for and admiration of Marvin Gaye, Funkadelic and their musical legacies, reluctantly file this action in the face of multiple adverse claims from alleged successors in interest to those artists,” the lawsuit begins. “Defendants continue to insist that plaintiffs’ massively successful composition, ‘Blurred Lines,’ copies ‘their’ compositions. In the case of the Marvin Gaye-related defendants (the ‘Gaye defendants’), it’s a song called ‘Got To Give It Up.’ For the owner of Funkadelic’s songs, Bridgeport Music, Inc. (‘Bridgeport’), it’s a song called ‘Sexy Ways.’ But there are no similarities between plaintiffs’ composition and those the claimants allege they own, other than commonplace musical elements. Plaintiffs created a hit and did it without copying anyone else’s composition.
“The basis of the Gaye defendants’ claims is that ‘Blurred Lines’ and ‘Got To Give It Up’ ‘feel’ or ‘sound’ the same. Being reminiscent of a ‘sound’ is not copyright infringement. The intent in producing ‘Blurred Lines’ was to evoke an era. In reality, the Gaye defendants are claiming ownership of an entire genre, as opposed to a specific work, and Bridgeport is claiming the same work.
“The reality is that the songs themselves are starkly different. Since that is the salient factor in a claim for copyright infringement, in the face of the threats of defendants to commence lawsuits, plaintiffs must seek declaratory relief from this Court that confirms plaintiffs’ unfettered right to exploit ‘Blurred Lines’ free of defendants’ claims.”
In a May interview with GQ magazine, Thicke said the No. 1 hit was written and recorded in two hours for his 2013 album of the same name.
“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,'” Thicke said in the interview. “I was like, ‘Damn, we should make something like that, something with that groove.'”
(Barring outright copying of a tune, with identical lyrics, or theft of soundtracks, song copyright claims are difficult to prove. Chord changes cannot be copyrighted. Hundreds of songs have been written with the chord changes to “I Got Rhythm.” Thousands of blues tunes are based upon similar harmonic progressions and melodies. “Parody masses,” reworking parts of church tunes, were popular as long ago as the 1400s.)
The song, which has racked up 10 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, has drawn the ire of critics who said it was derogatory against women.
In the video, Thicke repeatedly croons the line “you know you want it” to a parade of topless models. Thicke, Pharrell and T.I. are shown fully clothed, while are nude, aside from cream-colored thong underwear.
Tricia Romano of the Daily Beast called the song “kind of rapey” in a post in June.
Thicke has defended the song in various interviews, often saying his wife, the actress Paula Patton, approved of the song and video.
“Mr. Thicke said he found it odd that he had gained notoriety for the video when so many of his songs have been inspired by his marriage and respect for his wife,” The New York Times reported in July.
“‘My music has always been woman friendly, and if my wife didn’t like it, I wouldn’t consider putting it out,'” he said in the article. “‘But you know what my wife wants to do right now? She wants to feel young.'”
Thicke is represented by Howard King with King, Holmes, Paterno & Berliner.
Bridgeport Music did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. Courthouse News could not locate contact information for Frankie, Marvin and Nona Gaye.
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