March 21 (Reuters) – 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.
Jurors had awarded the Gayes $7.4 million, but U.S. District Judge John Kronstadt reduced the sum to $5.3 million, while adding royalties. Kronstadt also said T.I. and Interscope should be liable, but the appeals court disagreed….
Howard King, a lawyer for Thicke and Williams, said the dissent “enhances the prospects” his clients may prevail in an appeal. “These are two entirely different songs,” he said.
“We are thrilled,” Richard Busch, the Gayes’ lawyer, said in an interview. “The decision protects songwriters, and encourages new songwriters to create original works themselves.”
Which is more than you can say for the Music Modernization Act that Mr. Busch excoriated as unconstitutional in a recent opinion post:
While the proposed MMA Bill, which now has a Senate version, is not the worst thing I have ever read, there are certain parts of it that are not good at all.
It basically insulates Spotify and other DSP’s from liability for statutory damages and attorneys’ fees for any lawsuit not filed as of Jan. 1, 2018.
With essentially no notice, songwriters and publishers whose songs had been allegedly infringed by Spotify for years would essentially lose a key weapon in any lawsuit filed if they had not filed as of Jan. 1, 2018, even though the bill had not been enacted and will not be enacted, if it ever is, until sometime later in 2018.