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‘Blurred Lines’ Copyright Case Continues With a New Set of Motions

Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke
Jamie McCarthy, Getty Images

Last March, an L.A. jury decided Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ “Blurred Lines” was guilty of copyright infringement. The case found that the 2013 hit stole significant elements of Marvin Gaye’s 1977 song, “Got to Give It Up,” and as a result, Thicke and Williams were ordered to pay $7.4 million in damages to Gaye’s estate. This past Friday (May 1), both sides put forth a new set of arguments before Judge John Kronstadt, which could lead to a new trial or at least foreshadow a forthcoming appeal from Thicke and Williams.

Attorneys for Thicke and Williams are motioning for a new trial, arguing that the decision to restrict the original trial to “Got to Give It Up”’s sheet music confused the proceedings as well as the jury and tainted some of the testimonies. Since only specific portions and versions of the song could be played during the trial, the “Blurred Lines” team believes it renders some of Thicke’s previous statements — which asserted that the song was inspired by Gaye — irrelevant.

Likewise, Thicke and Williams believe testimony given by musicologist Judith Finell — who spoke to the similarity between the two songs — forced the “Blurred Lines” attorneys into a series of distracting objections. Though all of the objections were sustained, Thicke and Williams’ camp are now arguing that it led the jury to believe they were threatened by Finell’s testimony. They also said the testimony presented the jury with music that should not have been heard based on the sheet music restriction. And lastly, they argued that it clouded the jury’s ability to distinguish between which elements of the song they could and could not take into consideration during the trial.

Thicke and Williams also motioned that the $7.4 million payout was excessive. The “Blurred Lines” team’s own musicologist Sandy Wilbur testified that no more than 5 percent of the 2013 song was taken from “Got to Give It Up,” and the award should be adjusted to reflect that, which would look something more akin to $680,000.

On the flipside, Gaye’s family is asking Judge Kronstadt for an injunction on “Blurred Lines,” saying Thicke and Williams have not returned requests to negotiate licensing royalties since the March decision. If the judge doesn’t honor that request, the family has asked that Thicke and Williams turn over 50 percent of the song’s future revenue to the Gaye estate. Gaye’s attorneys are also arguing that various Universal Music record companies — including Interscope and UMG — should also be held culpable for “Blurred Line”’s copyright infringement and ordered to pay up.

Oral hearings for the case will be heard June 29.

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