As Blurred Lines Trial Starts, Take A Listen To The Special 'Copyright Only' Remix That Jurors Will Hear

from the everybody-get-midi dept

A few weeks ago, we noted how the copyright case over whether or not Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke violated the copyright of Marvin Gaye with their song "Blurred Lines" was getting interesting, as it started to explore the somewhat blurry lines between what's actually covered by a copyright and what's not. Under the 1909 Act, under which Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give it Up" was recorded, only the specific sheet music is covered by the copyright, not the sound recording itself. And that represented a problem, since the Gaye Estate's attorneys wanted to play the original song, which has a number of similarities to Blurred Lines. But many of those similarities -- including the bass line and the party atmosphere in the background -- are not actually a part of the copyright covered composition. Thus, the judge told the Gaye family to figure out some way to create a recording that only included the copyright covered parts.

The EFF's Parker Higgins predicted that such a recording "likely sounds like the MIDI version that auto-played on a Geocities home page, or a rendition by the animatronic band at Chuck E. Cheese." Well, the enterprising folks over at Ratter got their hands on the recording so that you can take a listen too:
It would seem that Parker's prediction was not that far off. The Gaye Estate is also presenting a remixed version of that MIDI-ized version with Pharrell and Thicke's lyrics put on top:
From there, they certainly sound quite different. And, it's important to note (again) that sounding like something doesn't mean that it's infringing on that thing. If that were the case, we wouldn't have much in the way of culture, since so much of it is built off of the works of others. It will be interesting to see how a jury sees this, as I could see a confused jury thinking that merely because the lyrics fit over Gaye's song that somehow makes it infringing. Hopefully they can see through that, however.

The trial is currently going on and jury selection is certainly interesting, as they're asking people what kind of music they listen to and what they think of the famous video for "Blurred Lines" that included a bunch of naked models....

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  • icon
    Geno0wl (profile), 25 Feb 2015 @ 12:44pm

    I can't wait for in 10-20 years some computer program to finish cranking out every music sheet ever and bring the music industry to a grinding halt.
    it will be glorious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      jupiterkansas (profile), 25 Feb 2015 @ 12:53pm

      Re:

      Why wait 10-20 years. Someone could do it pretty easily right now.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2015 @ 1:07pm

        Re: Re:

        At the very least you could produce a small range of riffs, lengthen them a bit will filler, and "publish" them online. Then wait a few years and do a computational search on all new music since they were published to find which ones sound closest to existing new popular music.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        wereisjessicahyde (profile), 25 Feb 2015 @ 2:00pm

        Re: Re:

        Musitek SmartScore has been able to do it for years. Although admittedly not "every music sheet ever". You have to feed the software.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      beltorak (profile), 25 Feb 2015 @ 12:56pm

      Re:

      well computers can't hold copyrights so that won't be a big deal. computers can probably infringe on copyrights tho, and in causing untold trillions of dollars of global economic damage because copyright infringement will probably lead the computer to be summarily executed on the spot.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2015 @ 1:13pm

      Re:

      Doesn't need to be computers.

      And this has already been written about.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2015 @ 1:21pm

      Re:

      Its not a program, its called "Justin Bieber", get your shit together man

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    wereisjessicahyde (profile), 25 Feb 2015 @ 1:55pm

    I don't agree with Gaye Estate's or the law suit but.. Mike, you say "they certainly sound quite different"

    No actually they sound very, very similar. I know that's not the point legaly but if you play both together at the same time (soundcloud won't let you - I downloaded both and played them through DJ mixing software) they match perfectly.

    Bass rhythm, overall key, voice - in pitch and overall style, quick rapid short chord changes that match in key and changes. Even the the mid-range organ bassline matches, in timbre, sound and rhythm.

    The two tunes played together overall sounds like that rare two records that are a mix DJ's dream - It's like they were designed to be play at the same time.

    Now before you all jump down my throat, remember I'm not on Gaye Estate's side in anyway. I'm just being objective ( I am a musician) but the fact is Blurred Lines is pretty much based on Got to Give it Up.

    I'm not saying it's wrong. But to say "they certainly sound quite different" is certainly wrong.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2015 @ 2:02pm

      Re:

      I'm pretty sure the recordings are mislabeled. The first one sounds *exactly* like that Blurred Lines music, with the Gaye vocals over the top. The second one sounds like the Gaye music wit the Blurred Lines vocals.

      This, of course, is of no use when comparing the two works.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Leigh Beadon (profile), 25 Feb 2015 @ 3:36pm

      Re:

      I think it's true that the recordings are mislabelled here and in the Ratter post... will try to figure that out. It definitely sounds like the songs with the vocals swapped.

      But, unrelated to that, one key point: the timbre and sound of things like the organ have nothing to do with this, and are not even the sounds from the original songs. They sound similar probably because they are both being played by the same MIDI instrument. But this is entirely about the notes, not the instruments playing them or anything specific about a given recording, which is the whole reason for this stripping-down exercise in the first place.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        wereisjessicahyde (profile), 25 Feb 2015 @ 8:19pm

        Re: Re:

        "the timbre and sound of things like the organ have nothing to do with this, " It might do? Not saying it's right, but it might do.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Leigh Beadon (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 9:16am

          Re: Re: Re:

          It might do? Not saying it's right, but it might do.

          No... have you been following this case at all? The whole point of this dispute, and the whole reason these MIDI versions were made in the first place, is that the Gaye estate only holds copyright on the sheet music, not on the recording or any recorded elements like the specific style of instruments or their sound.

          Moreover, these two examples are not the original songs — they are played on the same MIDI generator, using the same MIDI organ. So of course they sound the same. And of course that has nothing to do with this.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Leigh Beadon (profile), 25 Feb 2015 @ 3:37pm

      Re:

      Oh and also, the Blurred Lines version is upshifted here to match the key of the Marvin Gaye song -- they are not actually in the same key.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        wereisjessicahyde (profile), 25 Feb 2015 @ 8:34pm

        Re: Re:

        No it isn't. Because "upshifted" isn't a musical term. No music is ever "upshifted".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          wereisjessicahyde (profile), 25 Feb 2015 @ 8:58pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          OK. You really wanna do this? Fine. "They sound similar probably because they are both being played by the same MIDI instrument" You do realise what MIDI means? Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It's just a digital API, allowing connections between computers. Nothing more, nothing less. MIDI sounds likes nothing, it's just a connection.

          "But this is entirely about the notes" Well if it was, then they would have a fair case for IP protection. Just as a book is all about the words, you can protect that.

          "not the instruments playing them" Very true. Instruments don't play "them" unless of course they are programed to (very different caN OF WORMS)not the instruments playing them

          "or anything specific about a given recording, which is the whole reason for this stripping-down exercise in the first place" Not quite that simple mate.

          . But this is entirely about the notes, not the instruments playing them or anything specific about a given recording, which is the whole reason for this stripping-down exercise in the first place.

          The or anything specific about a given recording, which is the whole reason for this stripping-down exercise in the first place.
          or anything specific about a given recording, which is the whole reason for this stripping-down exercise in the first place. The Beastie Boys would like a word, like a word.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcy-MmpTkek

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            bureau13 (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 7:03am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Sure, MIDI is just a control interface for electronic musical instruments, and doesn't dictate the timbre, but I'm pretty sure both clips are played using General MIDI instruments, which do in fact have specific same-sounding timbres, so you can play a MIDI file without having a specific program of instruments or sounds and it will sound more or less like the song. So the original commenter was correct, as to why the instrument timbres are similar in these clips.

            This should be pretty easy to defend, as others have pointed out, but I can totally see the defense team f*cking it up, and allowing a confused jury to find in favor of the the plaintiff based on the clips "sounding similar." Hopefully not...

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Leigh Beadon (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 9:19am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Sigh. Yes, I know what MIDI is. And both of these song samples here were generated via MIDI through the same set of MIDI-controlled sound generators, in this case primarily an organ, which is why they both have the same organ. What about that do you not understand? These are not the original songs — they are the stripped-down example versions created for the jury. The jury is being instructed to ignore things like "how the organ sounds" and focus entirely on the composition.

            And yes, this is entirely about the composition, and nobody is saying that means there's no ground for copyright. THey are saying nothing that Thicke did infringes on the composition of the original.

            What is your point about the Beastie Boys? That there have been other disputes where the recording does matter? Because nobody is denying that. This is a situation where it doesn't matter because the original work was copyrighted before it was possible to copyright recordings, and thus the copyright only covers the composition.

            Honestly, it seems like you haven't read even the first thing about this case. You are ignoring all its key aspects.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              wereisjessicahyde (profile), 27 Feb 2015 @ 2:25pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Perhaps you missed my point which was I think the law suit is BS and you clearly missed my point about how one recording is clearly based on the other. As for the Beastie Boys query? You have to ask how the Beastie Boys are relevant to sampling copyright? Really?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Leigh Beadon (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 9:21am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            In fact, reading your comment, it is entirely clear that you haven't even glanced at a single piece of news about this whole lawsuit.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Leigh Beadon (profile), 26 Feb 2015 @ 9:14am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Excuse me for using the wrong term. What is the correct term? The second track has had all its notes moved up a major 2nd in order to match the key.

          Did you not understand that because I used the wrong word, or are you just being difficult for fun?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 9:32am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Funny, because I know exactly what he meant, despite being a musician.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2015 @ 1:56pm

    I'm confused as to what those recordings are supposed to be?

    The first one sounds like the Blurred Lines music with the Gaye vocals, and the second one sounds like the Blurred Lines vocals with something other than the Blurred Lines musice (maybe the Gaye music?).

    That's hardly useful in comparing the two songs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 25 Feb 2015 @ 1:56pm

    Still no one suing them on reasonable grounds, like how awful that crap is?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2015 @ 2:03pm

    >but the fact is Blurred Lines is pretty much based on Got to Give it Up.

    Ugh. Hate Facts. But if facts must be bandied: Bandy this: weren't two different performers singing from the SAME SHEET MUSIC? How could they not sound sorta similar? And if they're both vamping a bass in the same "style" (I use the word very loosely), wouldn't the vamped basses sound sorta similar? OK, very similar? Without any necessity to make an assumption (not fact) that one is based on the other?

    Not based on each other. Based on the same base, which was the sheet music.

    Is there something difficult about this concept?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lord Binky, 25 Feb 2015 @ 2:30pm

    Well shit, if it's syncing up that matters, I can't wait for the estate that owns the Wizard of Oz movie to sue the Pink Floyd rights holder.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous, 25 Feb 2015 @ 4:48pm

    Sound the same?

    The lawyers defence for this should be relatively straight forward.

    Just have someone sing "The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner" to the tune of the theme song of "Gilligan's Island," and a ton of Emily Dickinson's poetry, and then again Emily's poetry and "Yellow Rose of Texas."

    The lawyers should be able to connect the dots from there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous again, 25 Feb 2015 @ 4:52pm

      Re: Sound the same?

      Er...."The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"

      Sorry.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2015 @ 6:46pm

        Re: Re: Sound the same?

        You can do Gilligan's Island to Stairway to Heaven or Tiny Toon Adventures theme to the Addams Family theme. Some rhyme schemes are just classic and force a rythmn on the music.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2015 @ 1:13am

    At this point I'm pretty much torn between:

    1) hating these guys for potentially blocking other artists from being able to make a living.

    2) hoping they win and the music industry grinds to a halt as lawyers search for bits of music that sound similar.

    In fact the the anticipation to see (2) come to fruition is almost unbearable.

    To see all markets saturated and no further practical way for the Big industries to peddle their stuff.

    Mostly because I want to see what they'd do at that point, force us to buy their s**t at gunpoint?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tom Gallagher, 26 Feb 2015 @ 11:55am

    Blurred Lines

    I think the first track sounds more like Blurred Lines than the second track, really. BUT I posted to say that while Federal © law does not protect sound recordings made before 1972, many State Laws DO.

    I have not read the pleadings in this case, so I don't know where the parties stand on state law issues, but readers should be aware that there are State © Laws that are not pre-empted by Federal law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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