What’s Wrong With the ‘Blurred Lines’ Copyright Ruling

from NYTs

Here’s how songs, especially hip-hop and R&B songs, are made today : the framework is built in the studio by a producer, working on some combination of keyboard, drum machine, sampler and computer program. Songwriters contribute topline melodies and conceptual ideas, and sometimes all the words. Generally speaking, at the moment of creation, there is no sheet music, no notation that’s meant to guide musicians.

On Tuesday, a federal jury in Los Angeles concluded that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, the performer and primary songwriter-producer of the 2013 pop hit “Blurred Lines,” committed copyright infringement by using elements of the 1977 Marvin Gaye song “Got to Give It Up” in their composition without proper credit. The jury awarded Mr. Gaye’s family approximately $7.3 million, a combination of profits from the song and damages. That’s an attention-getting amount of money, but the verdict itself is far more damning.

Owing to the specifics of copyright law, the jury was instructed to base its decision on the sheet music, a fact that reflects how inadequate copyright law is when it comes to contemporary songwriting and production practices. In 2015, the arrangement of notes on a sheet of paper is among the least integral parts of pop music creation. We’re decades beyond the time when a songwriter penned a tune on paper, then gave it to musicians to perform.

More here.

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32 Responses to What’s Wrong With the ‘Blurred Lines’ Copyright Ruling

  1. Marion A March 15, 2015 at 11:53 am #

    In this article professor Shannon discuss how the lack of progress of the law can hurt contemporary artist. In fact music production has greatly evolved in the last decades but the law did not. Therefore the law is protected artists that used to write down their song before starting to produce them. Now music is not based on music sheet but on tone, feel and intensity that cannot be captured on paper. This difference make contemporary artist weaker in court has they do not have any “supporting prove” of the work and time they gave in order to produce their own music. But it is not because they do not have music sheet that they did not work and produced something that belongs to them. In this case after listening to the music I clearly identified some similarities in the two rhythms but this cannot grant Mr. Gaye. family the right to claim copy right infringement. The law needs to evolve and evolution of the law is what make U.S. law system so performant. I believe it should evolve in order to answer the problems and issues faced by modern society if not outdated law will keep on protected artist from the last decades.

  2. Emmanuel Akinsehinwa March 16, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    The article is about the copyright infringement case of the Song ”Blurred Lines”. Now the song is claimed to have been an infringement on the work of the late Marvin Gaye. The claim was brought to court by Mr. Gaye’s family. The end all tail stood as the Marvin Gaye estate winning the verdict.
    Now the author of the article expresses concern. In his opinion the song was not infringed. He claims that the only reason in which the Gaye estate even won the verdict was due to outdated practices. These outdated practices being referred to are the use of Marvin Gaye’s music sheet to back up the plantiffs claim. In Carmanicka’s opinion this is an outdated practice because he feels tat in todays music, most especially hip hop; music is more than just a sheet.
    With that last claim i certainly agree. Music is for certain more than just a sheet. However, one cannot argue against the facts. The fact that Pharells “Blurred lines” is more than just a sheet is completely irrelevant to the case. Into my response for the fact that its even being brought up. At the end of the day if the song being contested as stolen matches up to the music sheet of the acclaimed first artist, what defense do you honestly have. But to further things more I want to site my own concern for artist vulnerability. This case is a step towards artist protection not one against it. As mentioned in the article these days most artist dont even have a music sheet. As in Dj Mustard for example. Artist like this dont really have alot of musical education so if the only way to copy right there songs is with a music sheet then they are certainly a target. But with cases like this garnering more and more attenton im sure that a plug to fix that hole in copyright law is currently in production.

  3. Hongzhi Feng March 16, 2015 at 2:35 pm #

    This case is talk about how to made songs in this generation, compare with previously, there is no sheet music, no notation that’s meant to guide musicians. In 2015, the arrangement of notes on a sheet of paper is among the least integral parts of pop music creation. As the time pass by, there are many differences between the music such as untold things that static sheet music can’t capture: tone, feel and intensity or texture, all of which are as important to modern songwriting as the notes, and probably more so.

    As these changes, there are many problems happens, but in my personal opinion, I like the previously music’s style. it just like our daily life, didn’t include any dramatic things. And showed many singer’s real power. So I choose the older school’s style.

  4. BetaneliC March 16, 2015 at 2:53 pm #

    This article raises some interesting issues in regards to the music industry, the law that impacts that industry and our legal process that encourages ADR, or settlement outside of court. The article’s author, Jon Caramanica, explains the most recent copyright infringement suit against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams in the context of current copyright law. Current law protecting copyrighted music focuses only on the notes or what’s written on the sheet music. Considering that current pop music is no longer created on the sheet and then played, Caramanica suggest that the copyright laws may not be in touch with the creative process anymore. In addition, pop music today has more aspects to it than the notes, so to protect only the notes and not the other aspects of the music around the notes leaves some artists unable to protect the type of creative work they add to a track.

    While the case against Williams and Thicke did end up in court, claims related to copyright infringement in the music industry are most often settled outside of court using some form of ADR. Because these issues are being addressed privately, the laws continue to live in the past because issues of today’s music creation are not being brought into the courtroom for public debate. Caramanica points out that ADR is often used in the music industry because it is in the best interest of the artist to avoid a public lawsuit that would interfere with album sales or other promotional efforts. The laws, however, will continue to protect only one aspect of music, the notes, if artists are not given the opportunity to make the case for their creative work in court and set new precedent based on today’s music creation.

  5. Meghan Monte March 17, 2015 at 11:20 am #

    I enjoyed reading this article simply because it is much more comprehensive in its explanation of the “Blurred Lines” case. I have been hearing much talk regarding the case and have even seen the videos on YouTube in which the two songs play simultaneously, and I see the resemblance but I haven’t really been able to create an opinion since I didn’t know how the case was handled. Now, however, my previous thoughts have developed into a full opinion regarding the case, and I do not agree with the way it was handled at all.
    Previously, I did not know the methodology used for songwriting and production, but the article brought light to the fact that it’s not usually explicitly written down on paper like it used to be. There is no sheet music being used or written while the song is being written. Instead, there are numerous different programs and pieces of technology going at once to create the mood and melody desired. This piece of information became very helpful when reading about how the case was handled in court.
    The jury was told to compare sheet music of both “Blurred Lines” and “Got to Give it Up” to declare similarities and copyright infringement. I do not feel that this was a responsible way of handling the case whatsoever, especially since “Blurred Lines” was never actually written down. Further, there are many more things that go into a song nowadays than in 1977 when Gaye’s song was written, including synthesizers and computer programs that didn’t exist in his time. For that reason, sheet music comparison was not adequate in determining copyright infringement, in my opinion. I do think, however, that Thicke and Williams did themselves a disservice by stating that they were influenced by Gaye’s song without properly crediting Gaye on the album. As the article states, though, the copyright law being based on sheet music is clearly outdated and belittles today’s songwriting methodology. As many other laws are able to be adopted according to the times, the copyright law should have been in this case.
    Also, I agree with the author when he says that this opens the door to many more cases, and many more similar cases have been brought into the limelight recently. It is clear that today’s artists are influenced by past artists, and the past artists were influenced by artists before them. That is simply the nature of art – inspiration and influence. The difference, I think, lies in the fact that the artists before Gaye’s time and Tom Petty’s time perhaps were not so concerned with getting their royalties from a song that may have some similarities. It is also clear that there are only so many ways that a song can sound, given the major chords and melodies that can be constructed, and it is simply impossible not to sound similar to some song that exists somewhere out in the world of music. I think that this is where the mood, the texture, the intensity, and the different technologies used to make the song sound different and new come into play.

  6. Brendan Lloyd March 17, 2015 at 11:32 am #

    In this article it discusses the song “Blurred Lines” and the copyright issues it has been facing. In the article it states that according to a jury in Los Angeles that both Robin Thicke and Pharrel committed copyright infringement because they did not give credit to Marvin Gaye who they used parts of his song “Got to Give it Up” which was released back in 1977. According to the author he does not believe that they went over the boundaries and that they should not have been charged for this. He says that the reason they won is due to the fact of the current laws. In the words of the author the law is outdated and needs to be changed in order to keep up with the changing music industry. These laws are greatly impacting the music world in similar ways like the “Blurred Lines” case. The laws that are in play today only worry and focus on the notes.

    This style is greatly outdated because today’s music is not formed on a sheet and then created by the musician. The ways songs are created and come about today are not in line with the current copyright laws that the court has to follow by. I believe that if these laws were to change that it would be in the best interest of all musicians and that they would be aboard with the decisions made. Music is more than just notes as the beats and sounds also play a major factor in the song. Im sure if more songs were compared to older songs that many could make the case that their song is being copied but that is only due to the fact of the old songs. Everything around the law is changing at rapid paces and it is time for the law to keep up with the rest.

  7. Darryl S March 17, 2015 at 2:10 pm #

    According to Jon Caramanica’s article Whats Wrong with the ‘Blurred Lines’ Copyright Ruling, outdated laws contributed to awarding Marvin Gaye’s family $7.3 million. If a current law is in place and has certain procedures, the law must be followed and respected. However, the problem arises when a case like this occurs again because there seems to be no solution. If musicians are using a combination of a drum machine, sampler and computer programs, how do these music artist protect themselves from the law if they are constantly being sued for having similar music notes and sounds as another song? If music notes are not used to create the song as they once were, the law needs to be amended in order to protect musicians for this generation.

    From my perspective, I agree with the court’s ruling because of the law in place, and the songs sounding identical. Jon Caramanica did an excellent job writing this article by adding other examples with a similar accusation such as Sam Smith’s song ‘Stay With Me’. This is the first time that I am hearing of Smith’s settlement, but it shows how private settlements can be compared to the publicity when taken to court. To conclude, there definitely needs to be a solution to protect music artists.

  8. Greg Spro March 17, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    This article brought up a big problem that has been hurting the music industry these past few years. Copyright laws in the music industry have been the same for years now, with these laws being largely based on what’s being written down on the sheet music. The problem with these laws is sheet music has a significantly smaller role in the music production process than it once did. With all the advances in technology making the music production process more digital there’s almost very little need to use sheet music. This is why I agree with the article in that the current copyright laws are obsolete.

    I think a precedent has to be set where copyright infringement is not mainly based on the sheet music but on aspects like the tone of the song and then different digital modifications that can be done. If precedence is not set, I think the music industry will continue to get this type of bad publicity. Cases like the Pharrell Williams and Marvin Gaye case will keep happening, where authors of old songs will be able to win money in court based on this current technicality. On the other hand, there cases like what happened to DJ Mustard, where he feels the song “Fancy” was copied from his work. The article brings up a good point that back then the only way music was really written down was by the sheet music, so he didn’t have the opportunity write down any of the other variations he might up had. I think something that should be included in the new copy write laws is that song writers today should do a better job today of writing down all the different current technology they used that differentiates the song from the sheet music. That way new authors can clearly show how different their song is from an older song that appears to be similar. Overall the copy write infringement laws have to be updated, to equally protect old and new song writers and accounts for all the advancement in technology that has occurred.

  9. Dyanira Custodio March 17, 2015 at 8:17 pm #

    The outdated laws found in contract law ultimately lead to the awarding of $7.3 billion dollars to the Marvin Graye family. When you actually listen to the song “Blurred Lines” by Pharell and Robin Thicke and compare it to Marvin Graye’s “Got to Give it Up” you can actually hear the similarity. The article clearly states that Pharell and Robin Thicke committed copyright infringement by using elements of the Marvin Graye song without giving proper credit to the former artist.

    The way copyright law is practiced, is that the jury must base their guilty or not gulty decision on the sheet music. This is very advantageous for the Marvins family, as the music sheet does not capture everything. It fails to capture things as tone, feel and texture. These things play a huge role in the creation of music. A difference in a tone can make a big difference to the ear and create a completely different type of sound. Nonetheless, due to the outdated laws, RObin Thicke and Prahell Williams are not legally obligated to pay that money to the Graye family.

  10. Anthony Barley March 17, 2015 at 9:49 pm #

    What’s surprising about this case is that Pharrell Williams would be the last person I would expect to not give credit for production. I have been a fan of Pharrell’s music and art for over 10 years now. Pharrell is talented in music as a whole but excels in producing music. Pharrell has made is mark as an American singer, songwriter, rapper, record producer, and fashion designer.

    After comparing the two tracks “Blurred lines” by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, and “Got to Give it Up” by the late Marvin Gaye. I noticed the similarity in the chord progression. The problem with music today is that not all songs have sheet music for copy right reference. Music such as pop has a large amount of effects and tones that aren’t easily translated on to sheet music.

    I watched an interview with Pharrell on the subject of the Marvin Gaye’s song and he admits to be inspired by the song. It may have been a lack of responsibility on Pharrell and his camp or the similarities in the sample being too close. Sample clearance for artist can be a process that takes quite some time to clear before releasing a single or project. This process can take months depending on the terms and conditions the opposite party is willing to accept.

    Owing to the specifics of copyright law, the jury was instructed to base its decision on the sheet music, a fact that reflects how inadequate copyright law is when it comes to contemporary songwriting and production practices. Through sheet music the jury will have a clear examination to determine the ruling of the “blurred Lines” case.

    The jury in Los Angeles concluded that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, the performer and primary songwriter-producer of the 2013 pop hit “Blurred Lines,” committed copyright infringement by using elements of the 1977 Marvin Gaye song “Got to Give It Up” in their composition without proper credit. The jury awarded Mr. Gaye’s family approximately $7.3 million, a combination of profits from the song and damages.

    This to me was a surprisingly large amount of royalties paid out to the family of Mr. Gaye. Being a huge Pharrell Williams fan my initial thoughts were how hungry the family was to seek out recompense for record sales. The family even admitted that they were fans of the song and his music but had to seek royalties for what was their fathers work. It is said that “got to give it up” was not even written originally by Mr. Gaye. This case was an on going battle which will lead by example and remind artist of the legal stipulations that come with the music industry.

  11. Christopher Auer March 19, 2015 at 10:40 am #

    Music always manages to make people strongly feel a certain way about a song. The music seems to become embedded in minds and evokes many emotions upon hearing the music. For some, the beat can make you cheerful. If you wanted to make a song that was cheerful, the beat of that one song may come up often during development. This is because you can relate to the song easily and will always remember it. When Pharrell and Robin Thicke created “Blurred Lines”, Pharrell credits Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” for inspiration in creating the song. This does not mean that he copied Marvin and stole his work. He just thinks that the beat and the way the song makes him feel is similar to Marvin’s song.

    Based on this, Pharrell and Robin should not owe the Gaye family $7.3 million. That is a large and unnecessary amount of money that they have to hand out. Pharrell brings up a good point about inspiration though. Every day we are surrounded by all types of media. We cannot escape it. This makes it hard to develop anything completely new and original. The other point is that songwriters do not even write down songs on paper any more, and therefore, cannot compare to older songs. Eventually, songs will be compared because they both have the same instrument and there will be no way for the writers to protect themselves. For now, “songwriters” are focusing on the tone and feel of the song. They have no intentions of copying songs, but they will never be able to prove it.

  12. Thomas Guglielmo March 19, 2015 at 4:49 pm #

    This article examines the “blurred lines case” and argues that copyright law does not protect modern musicians. The article contends that comparing sheet music in the modern age is irrelevant to deciding copyright infringements in the music industry. DJ Mustard is an example of this, with his sounds that can’t be reproduced on sheet music, but were copied in Iggy Azalea’s, “Fancy.” The article drives home the point that using sheet music to determine if one song copies another will lower the value of the imitated songwriter’s music. I disagree with this and think the author would too if they saw their own words.

    The closing remark from our author about the value of imitated songwriter’s music is, “their innovations implicitly less valuable because no one’s figured out how to adequately write them down.” I ask, why does not adequately writing down the song mean that the value will be lower when someone else plays a similar song? In the beginning of the article did the author not say, “There are untold things that static sheet music can’t capture: tone, feel and intensity or texture…” If these qualities separate one song from another then for what reason does the author believe that the value of songwriter’s music will go down if it is imitated?

    I really like Tom Petty, and I couldn’t care less for Sam Smith. The author explains the law suit between Tom Petty and Sam Smith over Sam copying, “I Won’t Back Down.” In my eyes, this does not lower the value of Tom Petty’s song, nor does it cause damage to his music. If I like, “I Won’t Back Down,” I am going to listen to it. I do not like Sam Smith and therefore I will not listen to him. In the modern music industry it seems to be nonsense to believe that imitating bass lines actually causes damage to an artist who used a similar bass line years ago (blurred lines). To me it looks as if the old artists are leveraging the legal system to make money.

  13. Jonathan Yohanan March 19, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

    There are many passions that some people can have but one that we find some of the most comfort is in the passion of making music. This is one of the most common passions to find and to experience. Whether it is making music, listening, or just feeling, it can bring out any persons emotions. From just a special song, down to the interpretation of lyrics, music can mean everything, or nothing. But when the song “Blurred Lines” came out I could remember not only me but most people having mixed feelings about the song. Little did we know the stir up it would create. Pharrell and Robin Thicke the artists of “blurred Lines” gave credit to Marvin Gaye for some of the inspiration of their new song. Gaye wrote a song with a similar beat and some similar lyrics. But Gaye felt strongly that they had copy write his song.

    From what the article said Pharrell and Thicke were forced into owing Gaye and his family 7.3 million dollars. My belief is that the seven million was a little much to be forced into giving the Gaye family, not like it will damage Pharrell or Thicke, but still. Personally I believe that considering the amount of access we have to archives, and databases we can see anything from the past. And by doing so I believe that we can copy right anything if we really wanted to. It just all depends on whether or not you get caught. But for most songwriters and producers, they never truly have any set goals to copy right any other artist’s lyrics, or beats. Sure you can manipulate and change the tone and pitches of a beat and sound but by giving credit, I believe that Pharrell and Thicke did the right thing.

  14. Catherine Gbogi March 19, 2015 at 7:53 pm #

    In this article, there is a conflict and disconnect between freedom in creation and the copyright laws currently in place for those in the entertainment industry. The song Blurred Lines by Pharrel Williams and Robin Thicke has been accused of stealing the melody from Marvin Gaye’s Got To Give it Up. In this case the melodies are too similar for it to be entirely Pharrel’s own creation entirely. However, as creative as these artist and DJ’s need to be, sometimes melodies are going to the same. For example,many top hit songs are crafted with a different combination of the same four notes. After a while some songs are going to start to sound like each other however they all have different types of variations. Like the writer of this article states, why aren’t other musical artists that have similar melodies and even word phrasing from other songs without giving due credit or monetary compensation back to the original artist been persecuted as well?

    In my opinion, this section of copyright infringement law should be made like a patent. There should be something where artists get the chance to put a patent on their melodies and phrasing for certain songs where all of the creative lengths that went into that song are owned by the artist and their companies for a certain amount of time so that maybe 20-30 years later, portions of it can be used in other songs.

    It shouldn’t automatically bring in sue especially when the words, feel, meaning, and interpretations of the musical piece as a whole is different and entirely separate from another artist’s in my opinion.

  15. Brittany Martins March 20, 2015 at 10:49 am #

    The song “Blurred Lines” has more issues than just being a potential copyright infringement from Marvin Gaye’s song “Got to Give it Up”. However, that would be another story for another day. Yes, the melodies do resemble each other, but “Blurred Lines” is not the first song in 21st century pop music to resemble other songs in the past. I agree with author in saying that it is not copyright infringement.
    An argument could be made, or maybe it was made, but the two songs really do not have the same meaning. Do they sound the same? Yes. But, they have two totally different interpretations and should therefore be treated as two separate songs. So, suing and needing to pay up 7.3 million dollars seems like a pretty big stretch. Obviously, 7.3 millions dollars is just pocket change to Pharrel and Thicke. Pop artists I suppose need to be more aware when they’re making music as to not run into this problem again.

  16. Stefanie DiPaolo March 20, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

    This article sparked my attention because Intellectual Property Rights is my journal topic. The article discusses the current case between Robin Thicke and Pharrel Williams and the family of Marvin Gayes. It is said that Thicke and Williams used the melody of the 1977 song “Got to Give It Up” for their 2013 song “Blurred Lines.” The author goes on to describe how the verdict that Thicke and Williams did in fact violate copy right laws is a bad verdict. He comments on the way this decision was made, stating that the judge had someone compare the sheet music of each song to see if they were similar and says it is outdated and inaccurate due to the lack of pen writing for music.

    While the author does make some good points, I do not agree with him. While the laws regarding IPR are not the most effective and easy to understand, this case was not wrongly decided. Changes do need to be made to these laws, but nothing was wrong with the decision in this case. The author says the method used was not a good method since music is not written on paper anymore. But, this fact is not relevant since regardless of where the music is written, it is still music and has music notes to it. Comparing the songs for similarities is the best way to decide if copyrights were violated.

    I think the biggest issue with this case is whether or not Thicke and Williams were even aware that they were violating copyrights. In music today many songs sound similar. If Thicke and Williams were not aware that what they were doing was illegal there is no real reason to punish them as much as they are being punished through fines. Before a decision like that can be made, there should have been more research of the two mens’ intentions with their song.

  17. Ashley Scott March 20, 2015 at 6:53 pm #

    I was very uneasy about the whole Pharrell and Robin Thicke situation with the song “Blurred Lines”. I have been a huge fan of Pharrell from his music, to fashion, and even following him into his fragrance line. This whole situation has placed a negative vibe over a man who’s career has been booming from his laid-back personality. Pharrell is a huge impact on music earning himself a star.

    I believe that all music is starting to sound the same in order to keep up with trends or to create new ones. Blurred Lines had similar traits of Marvin Gaye’s song Got to Give it Up. Pharrell stated in an interview that he was inspired by the song but didn’t copy the song. In my opinion this inspiration helped him to create a song that was at the peak of the billboard chats. We shouldn’t punish an artist for this inspiration. The ruling in my opinion was way too much. This will only set a trend for other artist estates to sue on behalf of new artist taking these songs as “inspirations”.

  18. Guillermo Garcia March 20, 2015 at 8:58 pm #

    I found this article to be interesting. It’s true that music now a days is not written down, my friend himself produces rap beats on his laptop. He uses a studio on his laptop and just picks what sounds he wants, what order he wants them to play in, then layers it and loops it accordingly. None of it being written down. Music has completely changed over the past few years. I think that the copyright laws should be modified to adjust to the times we are living in musically. The music landscape and how music is produced has completely changed.
    The law shouldn’t be based on the written note sheets. Go into a rap studio and find one of those, go in to a pop studio and find one of those, they are extinct in certain musical areas. So there should be a law that can cover these artists to be able to protect their art and their craft adequately. The law should reflect the times and the industry more accurately.

  19. AmiraB March 22, 2015 at 1:25 pm #

    This article tackles a subject that the music industry worries about on the daily. It is important in the artistic world to respect others intellectual and artistic property.However, the law still does not make the difference between copyright infringement and getting inspiration from different songs, using 2 beats from a 70’s song should not be called copyright infringement in my opinion. Mr Gaye’s family took it too far to ask for profits and damages. This is clearly a case of money greed, rather than fighting for intellectual property.How we make music now a days is totally different from back in the day where the beats were composed on paper. now everything is electronic and digital, which is not admissible in court as proof.

  20. Constantine Kodersha March 22, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

    In this article, Martin Gaye’s family accused Robin Thicke, Pharell Williams, and his co-writers of using distinct musical elements of Mr. Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give it Up” without permission. Most pop music does not utilize “sheet music”, the arrangement of notes is the least integral part of pop music creation. However, the jury was asked to base its decision on the copyright infringement on the basis of sheet music. This is like comparing apples to oranges.
    In a world where music now is incredibly diverse, with more sonic references, instruments, and digital trickery available than ever before, using sheet music as a measure of a song’s originality is a weak tactic to say the least. There are certain things sheet music cannot capture, such as tone, feel, intensity, or texture, all of which are important areas to modern songwriting as the notes are.
    While I am not a music creation expert, I personally do not feel Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams willingly copyrighted this thing. I do not see the intent there. If we are going to go on with these rules as we have been doing, more and more artists will be suing each other for copyright infringements. The whole thing is going to become a gigantic mess. However, the other side of the story is that there are Intellectual Property rights, and did Pharell Williams and Robin Thicke go against these rights? Pharell seems like a modest down to earth musician, so to me he would be the last person to steal credit for another person’s work.
    “It is important to realize that copyrights do not protect ideas, only how they’re expressed.” (http://www.alllaw.com/topics/intellectual_property) Overall, I think this quote tells the story. Pharell Williams and Robin Thicke’s song has its own tune and melody, and therefore how the song is being expressed is completely different to my ears than Marvin Gaye’s. The ideas may be similar, but the expression of the ideas is different.

  21. Manon Pellet March 24, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

    Jon Caramanica’s article, “What’s Wrong With the Blurred Lines Copyright Ruling,” was published on the New York Time and discussed the copyrights infringement committed by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams on the song Blurred Lines. The article says that a federal jury in Los Angeles concluded that they committed copyright infringement by using elements of the 1977 Marvin Gaye song “Got to Give It Up” in their composition without proper credit. The jury awarded Mr. Gaye’s family approximately $7.3 million, a combination of profits from the song and damages. Throughout his article the author expresses his disagreement with the judge’s decision based on the fact that, according to him, “The “Blurred Lines” verdict is a victory for an outmoded law, but also an outmoded way of thinking about music.” One of the author arguments expresses that once you begin splitting hairs, the possibilities are endless in music. He even argues that if you listen closely to “Got to Give It Up,” you may hear the skeleton of a song like Prince’s “Kiss.”

    To be honest, I feel like I don’t know enough about music to be completely convinced by the author’s point of view, which I found very technical oriented. When we listened to Mr. Gaye song in class and compared it with Blurred Lines I was pretty shocked. Even though I don’t have a musical background like the author seems to have, when I heard both songs together they really sounded exactly the same. Facts are telling me that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams violated copyright law but they also violated Mr. Gaye’s intellectual property rights. However, I do agree on the fact that if more songs were compared to older songs, many could make the case for copyright violation. What I understand from this article is that the music industry is growing very fast and maybe the law hasn’t adapt to it and should adjust to this changing industry.

  22. Jonathan Villegas March 24, 2015 at 5:18 pm #

    In this article the copyright laws in the music industry are questioned and the author discusses the challenges that music and copyright laws have. Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were brought to court by Marvin Gaye’s family for copyright infringement and lost. The verdict by the jury will affect copyright litigation in the future but will not affect some of the new artists in the industry. Under the current law the jury was instructed to base its decision on the sheet music, and according to the author an outdated way at looking at music in 2015.
    Today music is not written as it was in the past. In the past there was sheet music but today music is more about feel. Today’s music is more related to tone, feel, intensity and texture. Some of those characteristics if not all cannot be measured by sheet music. The author is trying to get the reader to understand that the law requires juries to make decisions based on sheet music is outdated and the law needs to be change.
    I agree with the author, even though Thicke and Williams were found guilty of copyright infringement, the law is outdated and should be revised. Many songs and many artists do not get the credit they deserved because the copyright laws don not take into account what is going on today in the music industry. A new law or revised law would be the best for music in 2015. Many artists like DJ Mustard would get credit for influencing music today and more artists would be recognized for their work.

  23. Brent Sindoni March 24, 2015 at 9:32 pm #

    One of the most common problems faced by artists in the music industry today is copyright infringement. Today’s music, specifically the genres of hip hop and R&B, use a different framework to create songs. Typically, a producer uses a keyboard, drum machine, sampler, and computer program to create songs where there is no sheet music to be guided by. Many of today’s top songs sample instrumentals or segments of another song and use them as the basis of the song. One of the issues with sampling other works of music is that the artists whose music was sampled must be credited, cleared, and possibly compensated. When an artist creates a hit song, and does not properly clear their samples, the artists whose music was sampled may sue to earn a portion of the profits that were generated by the song. Robin Thicke and Pharrell’s “Blurred Lines” was a 2013 pop hit that committed copyright infringement when they did not give proper credit to Marvin Gaye, whose song “Got to Give It Up” was being heavily influenced to the song “Blurred Lines”, and many musical elements were copied. Marvin Gayes’ family was awarded over seven million dollars in court and rightfully so.

    There are many examples of copyright infringement alone in some of today’s top hits which include Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “Thrift Shop”, and Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”. If artists are going to knowingly use elements of other works of music, proper credit should be granted to the respective artists. Many of the songs that are sampled were created from scratch where all of the instrumentation was recorded live in the studio. Today, more times than not, the music is simply sampled and altered by pitch, speed, or intensity instead of being created by the producer. While the music is in turn paying homage to other artists, it is still the responsibility of the artist to credit any work of music that is not there property or else there can be significant losses in money earned as artists may sue and demand royalties.

  24. Sade Binns April 9, 2015 at 11:34 pm #

    It came as a shock that initial news reported copy right allegations against Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke. Both have incredible credentials to support their history of song writing and producing. If both men knew that“Blurred Lines” background music was similar to Marvin Gayes’ “Got To Give it Up” song, then it is shameful and out of character that they couldn’t get the permission and give credit to the Gaye family. There is a trend in the music industry, mainly in the hip hop, country, and pop genres. Artists will have similar bass and background music similar to other artists. It could be argued that this trend can be labeled as copyright infringements and it does highlight the problem some may have with creating instrumental pieces that sound similar to others.
    I believe this lawsuit will be a minor setback for Pharrell. He’s immensely respected as a performer and producer in the hip hop and pop community. It won’t be long until his fans bypass the lawsuit and his fellow musical counterparts eagerly anticipate future collaboration with him. Unfortunately, this lawsuit may cause more harm to Robin Thickes’ image. Within a years timeframe, bad publicity has followed him, including infidelity, divorce rumors, and disappointing album sales. Though Thicke claimed that he had little influence on the writing process, he might get more flack than Pharrell.

  25. Joseph Shymanski April 10, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

    The way that the current copyright laws are for music seems to be outdated. They could use an update to make the ruling of copyright infringement include more factors such as tone and the emotions put into the notes written on a paper. Right now that is all that really matter to the copyright laws, the written notes. Many modern songs use many computer distortion methods to make their songs sound unique from songs with very similar notes written in the past. They need to find a way to get these unique methods that make their songs sound unique to the artist preforming the song.

    I am not saying that artist should be allowed to just copy ideas from old songs and add some small distortion to it and be able to call it their own. What I am saying that they just cannot judge a song just based on written sheet music alone. The law needs to be updated for people that don’t write pure sheet music and use methods that are currently not protected under the copyright laws. The modern musicians are being left at a disadvantage with the way they have to deal with copyright judgments.

  26. Danielle Doogah April 10, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

    This has been floating around the media for the last year or so. I found that the article really explained how music is being produced in today’s music industry verses back in the day. The song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke ft Pharrell Williams & T.I claims to have been an infringement of the work done by Marvin Gaye called ” Got to Give It up”. If you actually listen to the songs you can hear a lot of similarities in the beat and background music. I think the article touches upon really good points about currently in the music industry artists are not using sheet music, and they are in the “moment of creation” they just tweek and figure things out as they produce the song. Which is why Marvin Gaye’s family won the case against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, because they do not have sheet music they can’t prove that they actually didn’t copyright a former song. I think overall, the music industry is going to look at this case and really start to fill that gap. Artists need to provide authenticity and sheet music so things like this will not happen in the future.

  27. Matthew Goldberg May 1, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

    I have heard about this issue with “Blurred Lines” before, and that is what intrigued me to read this article by Jon Caramanica in the New York Times. I was glad to see that the author started off giving a background of what is typically done by an artist when creating a song. This is important because it can cause many artists to have legal issues after creating what they think is an original song. I think it was ridiculous that “Blurred Lines” was committed of copyright infringement by using elements of Marvin Gaye’s song “Got to Give It Up.” They may sound like the melodies resemble each other, but “Blurred Lines” has a catchy beat and just sounds similar.

    I do not think Robin Thicke and Pharrell went out of their way to steal Marvin Gaye’s music, when they each have created many other original songs in their history. I was really glad to see how the author at the end questioned how when you listen to “Got to Give It Up” you may hear something that sounds like Prince’s song “Kiss.” I thought it was a great question to ask if he thinks the Gaye family will try to sue another person’s song based on the similarity in the tunes. I would be furious if I had to pay 7.3 million dollars, and I am glad this author decided to write an article that questioned both sides of the story.

  28. Rhiannon K. June 11, 2015 at 5:28 pm #

    I found this article extremely interesting. I love music and I am constantly trying to find new songs or talented artists to listen to. Since I actively listen to so much music, I personally notice that a lot of songs on radio seem to be taking hooks, melodies, etc. from different songs. Therefore, when I read that it was ruled that “Blurred Lines” used parts of Marvin Gaye’s song I was not surprised. People nowadays love catchy beats and sometimes tunes can pop into your head without knowing where they come from. I do not really blame Pharrell for using the elements of Marvin Gaye’s song. I think that if Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams had just given some recognition to Marvin Gaye in the beginning, it would not have caused such a problem.

    As soon as someone realized the similarities it should have been taken care of. I also feel that even if Pharrell did not realize that the bass line was similar to Marvin Gaye’s at first, you would think that before it was released some other person would have realized the similarities. Especially, since “Got to Give It Up” was such a popular song. I think music companies need to do more research before a pop or R&B artist releases a single. And with or without copyright infringement the song “Blurred Lines” was a success and was played constantly on the radio.

    I also found it intriguing how the jury decided on the case. The sheet music was probably not the best idea. Music nowadays mostly relies so heavily on sound effects and beats and I do not think that is something that can be effectively displayed in sheet music. I think that if music continues to evolve the way that it is, juries will have to find a new way to interpret copyright infringement. I also think that with the production of pop music there are going to be many more cases similar to this one.

  29. Daniel Folta February 19, 2016 at 2:36 pm #

    This article highlights just a part of an overarching issue with laws made in the past and enforced in the present, in the context of Marvin Gaye’s family suing Robin Thicke for copyright infringement over “Blurred Lines.”

    Throughout history, people have struggled with this problem of reconciling principles of the past with conditions of the present. The early Catholic Church, for instance, debated extensively over truth that comes from divinely bestowed reason and the divinely revealed scriptures, and which, if either, trumps the other. During this time the Renaissance was pending, and there had been a new emphasis on science and nature. Some argued that God gave us the ability to reason, and that the laws of nature are unmoving – therefore scripture must be interpreted allegorically if there seems to be a contradiction between that law and the scripture. Other theologians argued that the Word of God was undeniable literal truth, and that no exceptions can be placed on it– thus, do away with natural science where it seems to contradict the literal interpretation of the scriptures. In a similar way the Chinese scholar-officials argued over maintaining Confucian principles while stepping into the West’s realm of science – of which they were seriously lacking in the Opium Wars.

    A more recent example of this past v. present issue may be seen through debates on citizens’ gun rights. When the 2nd Amendment was written, America consisted of a few city-dwellers and mainly farmers. Nowadays, most of our population lives near the city and consequently, a greater potential of more harm from acts of violence. It is easier for someone to shoot many people in these localized areas as opposed to trekking from farm to farm. This is not to say that gun rights should be infringed, but simply that circumstances have changed, and that we may need to reconsider the worth of citizens having guns in the context of the country we live in today. This is just one example of how the past must be reconciled with the present in such a way that does not chain us from adaptability.

    Copyright infringement specifically needs to be clarified within movements in today’s cultural shifts. This article contrasts how Robin Thicke’s song was infringing Marvin Gaye’s almost only because of the sheet music, while DJ Mustard’s song has been imitated by Iggy in more meaningful senses – and yet has not even gone to suit.

    While not within the realm of music per se, judges have, in other instances, adapted favorably to the shifts in the contemporary art industry as opposed to the old. Take for example the case of Patrick Cariou v. Richard Prince. (http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/news/garnett/cariou-v-prince-the-copyright-bungle-3-31-11.asp) Patrick Cariou, a French photographer, sued appropriation artist Richard Prince on the basis of copyright infringement for using his photographs and making minimal adjustments to them. At first, the judge ruled that the appropriated works had not been changed enough to be considered fair use. Richard Prince won on appeal, however, because the court eventually ruled that the appropriated works were transformative enough so as to change the meaning of the photo. In this instance, we see that the court is currently figuring out the bounds of copyright infringement because of recent trends in modern art.

    If the court ruled that the standard of copyright infringement in this case was on the degree of transformation, it would make sense to apply the same principle to music as well. But the problem here is that the degree of transformation is dependent on opinion. What was nice about copyright using sheet music is that there is a more systematic way in whether or not someone’s work was infringed. With “meaning,” “feel,” “style,” etc., it becomes easier for an infringing artist to explain how their work was different from another’s, and that becomes a double edged sword. Not stopping at Cariou, Richard Prince went even further with appropriation art by taking blown up screenshots of other people’s Instagram photos and selling them for roughly $90k. (http://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2015/06/02/instagram-richard-prince-art-buccafusco-intv.cnn) The only ‘transformative’ aspect of it is that he added his own comment at the bottom. Richard Prince has been sued, and now judges will have to make an opinion as to how transforming that comment is, and if it is enough to transform the entire work, which is a very “blurred line” when it comes to law standards. So while we do need to take a closer look at the applicability of our current copyright statutes, we need to be careful so as to not create more problems down the road.

  30. Cedric Kabore February 19, 2016 at 5:44 pm #

    This article is very interesting and summarize the issue about the copyright ruling of the song Blurred Line by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams. Hip Hop as always been a type of music that draws its melodies with soul and R&B samples. Nowadays most of the R&B songs are sampling heavily old classic R&B songs from 80s and 90s. It is a trend. I think musicians and producers have the nostalgia of this Era. Sampling occurs when a portion of a prior sound recording or fixation of sound is incorporated in the sound recording and in the underlying musical composition embodied in such recording. If sampling occurs without permission, copyright infringement of both the sound recording and the song has occurred. Most expert in the music industry says that R&B is hard to produce and nowadays do not appeal to a large crowd because most of the pop song draw their influence on R&B music. That’s why R&B singer in the necessity to make hits sample those late success of the 80s and 90s. However as said before all samples need to be cleared and the artist who is being sampled have to be informed and earn a percentage on the song royalties. In this case it seems that the producer of the song Pharrell Williams didn’t acknowledge that he sampled this song of Marvin Gaye titled “Got To Give It Up”. Therefore they have been sued by Marvin Gaye’s Family. The jury awarded Mr. Gaye’s family approximately. $7.3 million, of the song profits. There is actually a process to legally license a sample. In fact to legally sample a recording you have to negotiate a separate sample clearance fee with two different rights-holders: whoever owns the sound recording (the actual sound that’s been fixed to magnetic tape, CD, etc.) and the song publisher (who owns rights to the underlying melody and lyrics). This takes a lot of money and time. For well-known songs, licensing fees can be very expensive and sometimes rights-holders won’t agree to a sample clearance for any price.

  31. Anthony DiGrande October 27, 2016 at 6:50 pm #

    This article discusses the copyright issue of Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines” featuring Pharrell Williams and how the artists used elements of Marvin Gaye’s song “Got to Give it Up” to come up with the song. Gaye’s Family was awarded $7.3 million dollars for copyright infringement. The verdict was based on sheet music and the article goes into how in the digital aspect of songwriting has grown and hand written sheet music is dated. The article then questions other hit songs that have elements of other songs and those artist do not get sued.

    I have to say when I heard this on the news I was a bit confused. The reason being that now artist are using samples of other songs within their own songs. For example Eminem’s hit song “Berzerk” off of “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” used the sample of the song “The Stroke” and there was no news of him violating any copyright laws. More recently Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” used samples of songs to convey the meanings of his songs on the album. The main issue is the copyright law itself and how it needs to be updated to the modern day. Now I am not against copyright. An artist has the rights to receive royalties for their work in producing the song, but when it comes to using samples of a song there has to be other elements besides the excuse “the beat sounds the same”. There has to be something that is different like the tempo of the beat, the way the sample is used with in the song, and overall how different the artists version is different from the original. The best example is once again from Eminem, but this time it’s from his song “No Love” featuring Lil Wayne. The smash hit use the chorus from the song “What is Love” by Haddaway and there was no lawsuit case for that. I believe that the artist asks for the person who owns the copyright to use the sample, but the problem if the original song is altered in anyway for a sample use to be placed in a song should it be copyright infringement.

  32. Rushil Jain November 11, 2016 at 5:01 pm #

    Copyright issues is something discussed in many law classes just because it is an integral part of any form of expression and law. I have researched many copyright cases over the past weeks for various classes and I have learned so much about how cases are decided on and the difference between fair use and non-fair use. The case mentioned in this article is one I researched very recently along with similar cases involving the Gaye estate. In this article, it mentions how the sheet music is what determined the result of the case. This is the same method used in other cases, like for example the Casey Dienel v. Justin Bieber et al. case that discussed how Justin Bieber’s song, “Sorry” included a 4-note riff from Whit Hinterland’s song, “Ring the Bell.” In this case, the sheet music was also consulted and helped determine that the case had very little data behind it. Copyright cases are tricky because there are so many factors involved, including time of song release, location, popularity, money and set-up as well as the relationships between the makers of the song. This led to the discussion of how many different songs are there. There is a video on youtube that talks about how similar cords are used in multiple different songs that have been famous over the years. The video, Will We Ever Run Out of New Music, by VSauce goes over this topic and explains how the copyright cases of most of the artists are based on profits rather than artistic integrity.

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