Yesterday, a Los Angeles jury awarded $7.4 million in compensation to the family of late-singer Marvin Gaye for copyright infringement by singer-songwriters Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke.
Starting in 2013 shortly after their release of the Grammy-nominated single “Blurred Lines,” the case zigzagged through court as Williams and Thicke denied allegations that they had ripped off key aspects of Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up.” But with the landmark ruling and multi-million dollar settlement, shockwaves are being felt throughout the music industry as artists now have to more seriously consider what originality means and whether future lawsuits could chill their creative process.
Where is the line between one artist’s copyright and another artist’s creative expression? What does it mean for a song or a sound to be ‘original?’ And will this case open a flood of copyright infringement lawsuits against the thousands of artists who have copied, sampled, and morphed the sounds of others?
Dan Nabel, Director of the Intellectual Property Clinic at USC and former intellectual property litigator
Robert Fink, Professor of Musicology, UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music