A federal judge on Monday ruled that the Marvin Gaye recording at the center of litigation between the late R&B star’s children and Robin Thicke cannot be played for the jury when the multimillion dollar copyright infringement case goes to trial.
U.S. District Judge John A. Kronstadt told lawyers for Marvin Gaye III that the jury will not hear his father’s voice or the actual sound recording of the 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up,” which the Gaye family contends was plagiarized by Thicke and producer/singer Pharrell Williams for the making of the megahit “Blurred Lines.”
Instead, Kronstadt ruled that jurors will hear the song performed in court by a keyboardist because the issue is whether Thicke and Williams lifted the Gaye song’s compositional elements, including the melody line, rather than the overall sound and atmosphere of the record, which is owned by Motown, which is not a party to the suit.
However, jurors will hear the “Blurred Lines” recording.
“We’re gratified that the judge has recognized what’s at issue — the lead sheet, not the sound recording,” Thicke’s lawyer, Howard E. King, said outside court.
“The two songs are of the same genre, but ‘Blurred Lines’ is very different from ‘Got to Give It Up.’ The structure is different and playing (the Gaye hit) on piano will demonstrate once and for all that there are no similarities.”
Thicke and Williams are being sued by Gaye’s children, who allege that more than a dozen elements of “Blurred Lines” were lifted from “Got to Give It Up.” The case could potentially be worth millions of dollars in damages.
Writing credits on “Blurred Lines” are shared by Thicke, Williams and rapper T.I., while the production is credited to Williams.
Gaye family attorney Richard S. Busch said he would file motions and briefs appealing Kronstadt’s decision.
“It’s not clear whether we’ll be able to present all the evidence we have, but we feel very strongly about our case,” Busch said after the hearing.
Kronstadt told attorneys for both sides that they would have three days each to present their cases before an eight-person civil jury in Los Angeles federal court. Kronstadt said he would know on Feb. 5 whether the trial will start, as tentatively planned, five days later.
Thicke’s attorneys in October urged Kronstadt to forgo a jury trial and rule in their favor against the Gaye family because, they contend, there is no “meaningful similarity” between the two songs.
Kronstadt, however, rejected the argument, finding that the Gaye family made a sufficient showing that elements of “Blurred Lines” may be “substantially similar to protected, original elements” of “Got to Give It Up.”
The Gaye children’s 2013 lawsuit also accuses Thicke of lifting from their father’s “After the Dance” for the title track of his 2011 album “Love After War.”
Thicke’s estranged wife, Paula Patton, has been called to testify in her husband’s defense if the case goes to trial.
Patton appeared in the “Love After War” music video with Thicke and allegedly co-wrote the song with him.
In interviews with GQ and Billboard magazines, Thicke said “Got to Give It Up” was one of his favorite songs and he wanted to “make something like that, something with that groove.”
Kronstadt also ruled today that press statements by the artists can also be admitted as evidence.
“Blurred Lines” sold about 15 million copies worldwide, according to Billboard.
—City News Service