When attorneys for Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke appealed the controversial jury verdict against the “Blurred Lines” creators, hundreds of artists rallied behind them. Now it’s Marvin Gaye’s family that’s seeing an outpouring of support.
While a judge trimmed the jury’s $7.4 million verdict down to $5.3 million, many in the industry have said the verdict’s potential to stifle artists from creating works that are inspired by those who came before them is the biggest cost.
Clear battle lines are being drawn in this copyright war. On one side, artists including Linkin Park, Earth, Wind & Fire and Jennifer Hudson and legendary composer Hans Zimmer have sided with Williams and Thicke.
On the other side are Hall of Fame songwriters and world renowned composers including David Porter, Valerie Simpson, Paul Riser, Jon Lind and Sylvia Moy. The group is responsible for writing hits like “My Girl,” “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love,” “Dreamweaver” and “My Cherie Amour.” They’re joined by professors of law, music and business from across the country.
On Wednesday they, along with a separate group of musicologists, filed an amicus brief in support of the Gayes — whose attorney, Richard Busch, last week told the 9th Circuit that the jury’s verdict was just.
The Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice, along with the composers and professors, argues that any fears of chilled creativity because of the ruling against Thicke and Williams is unfounded because the Fair Use Doctrine still allows for lawful borrowing. (Read the brief in full below.)
“[The Thick parties] and their amici trot out a hypothetical, feared parade of chilling effects that this evidence-based decision might create,” writes Sean O’Connor in one amicus brief. “However, that parade will not march because this decision was based on disputed evidence about protectable aspects of a particular piece of music — not on some broad-brush protection of a whole musical genre — and because the fair use by subsequent composers of even protectable elements from this work remains available.”
At the heart of the appeal will be whether it was proper for U.S. District Judge John Kronstadt was correct in not allowing the jury to hear the original sound recording of “Got to Give It Up.” He allowed only recreations of the work based on the sheet music deposited with the U.S. Copyright Office.
Thicke and Williams argue Kronstadt properly limited the scope, but testimony from the Gayes’ musicologists introduced opinions about the sound recording and allowed unprotected elements to be considered by the jury. Their lawyer, Howard King, argues to the 9th Circuit that the problem was made worse by inadequate jury instructions that failed to distinguished between protectable and unprotectable material.
The Gayes and their amici, on the other hand, say Krondstadt’s decision to limit the scope and preclude the playing of the original recording favored the “Blurred Lines” duo and was in error.