The Marvin Gaye estate and Robin Thicke are currently involved in a copyright infringement lawsuit which includes a dispute regarding the similarities of Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up” song and Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” song. Lawyers for Robin Thicke requested that the Court exclude Gaye’s original recording of “Got to Give it Up” and prevent the song from being played to the jury during trial. This request was recently granted by the District Court Judge. One of the arguments made by the attorneys for Robin Thicke to the Court was that the Marvin Gaye estate only owned a copyright in the composition of the song and not in the actual sound recording.
It is important to understand the difference between applying for a copyright registration in a musical composition versus applying for a copyright registration in a sound recording. Generally, a musical composition consists of music and any accompanying words and is in the form of a phonorecord (i.e., a CD or LP) or sheet music. A sound recording captures the actual fixed performance of the song. The 1976 Copyright Act allows for separate applications for musical compositions and sound recordings. Thus, a copyright registration for a sound recording is not the same as a copyright registration for the underlying musical composition since each is considered a separate work. However, under certain circumstances a musical composition and sound recording can be registered in one application.