Jury Says Robin Thicke And Pharrell Infringed… Even If They Didn't Mean To: Told To Pay $7.3 Million
from the time-for-the-appeal dept
This isn’t a huge surprise, even as it’s ridiculously problematic, but the jury in the “Blurred Lines” copyright case has ruled that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams infringed on Marvin Gaye’s song, and thus now owe $7.54 million. I had guessed that this is how the jury would rule solely because it was possible to play Blurred Lines lyrics over the Gaye composition and have it sound like it would fit — and it seemed unlikely that the jury would understand enough about the specifics of copyright to not think that magically made it infringing. Of course, the fact is there are tons of songs that you could play over tons of other songs. That’s why there are even multiple different comedy routines making this point.
The jury seems to understand that Thicke and Williams didn’t do this on purpose — even though there was a claim made that they said they wanted a song with “the feel” of a Marvin Gaye song. In fact, they said it wasn’t willful infringement. That means that, according to this jury, merely being inspired by a genre and making a song with the same sort of “feel” is infringing. That’s not how copyright law is supposed to work at all. One hopes that Thicke and Williams appeal and the appeals court slaps down this ridiculousness. Either way, this accidental infringement is worth a pretty penny, according to the jury:
Ultimately, a jury comprised of five women and three men heard dueling opinions regarding “Blurred Lines” and decided to order Thicke and Williams to pay $4 million in copyright damages plus profits attributable to infringement, which for Thicke was determined to be $1.8 million and $1.6 million.
That’s less than the $25 million that the Gaye Estate was seeking, but still. That’s crazy. It’s likely that Thicke and Williams will appeal, and one hopes that they’ll go through with it, rather than settle just to end things. This is a horrific copyright ruling that suggests that songs that merely have a similar feel may be infringing. It’s a really dangerous precedent that completely undermines basic copyright law. In the meantime, the Gaye estate is asking for a permanent injunction on the sale of the song, which is just a negotiating tactic to pressure Thicke/Williams into settling…