Oral arguments are scheduled Friday in Pharrell Williams’ appeal of the verdict in the copyright infringement lawsuit he and Robin Thicke lost to the Marvin Gaye family in 2015 over their hit “Blurred Lines.”
A federal civil jury found that the duo lifted elements of Gaye’s 1977 disco hit “Got to Give It Up” when they recorded their global chart-topper. The panel awarded the Gaye clan a $7.4 million verdict, later trimmed by the judge to $5.3 million plus half of ongoing “Blurred Lines” royalties.
The jury cleared rapper Clifford “T.I.” Harris Jr. — who had added a rap segment to the track — of any wrongdoing, but the judge later found him liable.
Attorneys for Thicke and Williams contend that the eight-day trial in downtown Los Angeles was “a cascade of legal errors” warranting a reversal by the appellate court. Both sides are allowed 20 minutes each to make their arguments before the three-judge panel in Pasadena.
Jurors never heard the actual recording of “Got to Give It Up.” Because laws at the time allowed for only the sheet music composition, not the sound recording, to be copyrighted, U.S. District Judge John Kronstadt ruled that jurors could consider only recreations of the work based on the “lead sheet” deposited with the U.S. Copyright Office.
Williams and Thicke contend that hours of testimony by a musicologist, centering on her opinion as to the similarity of the two songs’ sound recordings, swayed the jury and should not have been allowed.
The “Blurred Lines” attorneys are asking that the lower court’s judgment be reversed, “or at a minimum, vacated and remanded for new trial,” according to their brief.
Gaye family attorney Richard Busch, in his brief, argues that the trial was fair and the judgment should be affirmed. But if a sequel is ordered, the Gaye family should be allowed to introduce as evidence the Motown recording of “Got to Give It Up” in order to show the extent of the infringement, the attorney asserts.
—City News Service
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