A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a $5.3 million judgment against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams for copying a Marvin Gaye song to create their 2013 smash “Blurred Lines.”
By a 2-1 vote, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give It Up” deserved “broad” copyright protection, and the March 2015 jury verdict in favor of Gaye’s three children could stand because there was “not an absolute absence of evidence” of similarity between the two songs.
Circuit Judge Milan Smith also upheld an award of 50 percent of future royalties from “Blurred Lines” to the Gayes. He restored the jury finding that the Interscope record label, part of Vivendi SA, and Clifford Harris, the rapper known as T.I. who added a verse to “Blurred Lines,” should not be liable.
The “Blurred Lines” case has transfixed the music industry, prompting debate over the line between plagiarism and honoring works by popular artists like Gaye, whose songs also include “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “What’s Going On.” Gaye was fatally shot by his father in 1984 at age 44.