A musicologist told a Los Angeles federal jury Thursday in a copyright case that the lines between a recent Robin Thicke hit and a decades-old Motown song by Marvin Gaye aren’t blurred, they’re parallel.
Judith Finell testified that she has spent more than 500 hours analyzing the two songs — Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Gaye’s 1977 chart-topper “Got to Give It Up” — as part of the Gaye family’s lawsuit alleging Thicke, producer Pharrell Williams and rapper T.I. misappropriated key elements of the Motown track. The Gaye clan contend they should be paid millions of dollars in damages as a result.
In the third day of trial, Finell said “Blurred Lines” encompasses the same signature phrase, vocal hook, keyboard and bass lines and other compositional “fingerprints” as “Got to Give It Up.”
Overall, she said, there are almost no elements of the songs that are not alike.
Playing for the jury a specially prepared recording of a segment of the late Gaye’s vocal track mingled with a keyboardist playing a passage from “Blurred Lines,” Gaye family attorney Richard S. Busch asked Finell for her opinion.
The two parts “coincide very closely through most of it,” she told the eight-member civil jury.
At the end of the day, Thicke attorney Seth Miller began his cross- examination by placing the sheet music of “Got to Give It Up” in front of Finell and attempted to have her concede that the two songs’ lead sheets actually have little in common. She will be back on the stand tomorrow.
Harry Weinger, who is in charge of the catalog reissue arm of Universal Music Group — which owns Motown, distributes Thicke’s music and is a defendant in the copyright case — told jurors that he believed “Blurred Lines” was “based on” the Gaye hit.
Thicke and Williams were not in court today, but are expected to testify next week when their lawyers put on their case.
Thicke’s estranged wife, actress Paula Patton, and T.I. are also expected to testify.
Gaye’s three children allege in a federal copyright lawsuit that Thicke and Williams plagiarized at least eight key elements of “Got to Give It Up.”
At issue is whether Thicke and Williams lifted the Gaye song’s compositional parts, including the melody line found on the sheet music, rather than the overall sound and atmosphere of the record. The case could potentially be worth millions of dollars in damages to the Gaye clan.
Busch said “Blurred Lines” made more than $40 million from all revenue streams, including $11 million in tour proceeds.
Thicke co-counsel Howard E. King told the jury in his opening statement Tuesday that although the song was profitable, its earnings were “not anywhere near $42 million.”
King also said that the Gaye family earns about $100,000 a year from “Got to Give It Up” alone.
Writing credits on “Blurred Lines” are shared by Thicke, Williams and rapper T.I., while the production is credited to Williams.
The Gayes’ 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.”
“Blurred Lines” sold about 15 million copies worldwide, according to Billboard.
Marvin Gaye was shot to death by his father in Los Angeles on April 1, 1984.
— City News Service