Marvin Gaye’s Heirs Awarded $7.4 Million for Blurred Lines

The women and men of the jury read their verdict a few minutes ago. I wrote in January there would be a trial if the parties didn’t settle. And the court ruled before the trial that Marvin Gaye’s heirs could not play his 1977 iconic recording “Got to Give It Up” because the Copyright Act was in the sound recording limbo that existed between 1972 and 1978.

So the “Blurred Lines” recording could not be compared by the jurors to Gaye’s recording during the eight day trial that just ended.The heirs won anyway.

The jury was given an apples and oranges copyright infringement case. The sheet music of “Got to Give It Up” compared to the “Blurred Lines” recording.

You have to guess they were influenced by the very different explanations and testimony given by the people most associated with the hit recording, Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke. Thicke especially because of his statements like “Pharrell and I were in the studio and I told him that one of my favorite songs of all time was Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to Give it Up.’ I was like, ‘Damn, we should make something like that…” These words were repudiated before and at trial.

The verdict orders Thicke and Williams to pay $4 million in copyright damages plus specific amounts for each relating to the infringement, $1.8 million and $1.6 million for the $7.4 total.

Before the trial, a confidential settlement may have been possible, and the world would be left guessing how much money was involved. If there’s a settlement now, the world would know they must be getting a serious amount of money. This may create even more pressure for the defendants to appeal to the 9th Circuit.

And the apples and oranges copyright evidence may make it harder for Williams and Thicke on appeal. The Gaye heirs went before a jury with one arm tied behind their backs. Ultimately copyright infringement is a fact specific decision, and jury awards are harder to reverse. The implications especially for goldies artists could be fascinating.

About Craig Pinkus

Craig Pinkus is a partner in the Intellectual Property Group. He also is a member of the Litigation and the Sports, Entertainment and Media Groups. He assists clients with a broad range of disputes and transactions involving all areas of intellectual property, entertainment, and other complex business arrangements. He has conducted trials and arbitrations throughout the United States and has argued appeals before the Seventh, Sixth and Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal, the Indiana appellate courts, and United States Supreme Court.
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