In March of this year, a California jury awarded $7.36 million in damages to Marvin Gaye’s family, finding that Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke, and Clifford Harris, Jr.’s hit song “Blurred Lines” infringed on the Marvin Gaye classic song “Got to Give It Up.” Recently, the Judge in this case made rulings on several post-trial motions. Some of the most significant rulings are that a request for a new trial was denied and that the Judge reduced the jury verdict from $7.36 million to $5.3 million. Also, the Judge found that T.I. was liable, reversing the jury verdict that he was not due to errors in the jury instructions. Further, the Judge denied a request for an injunction to prevent the distribution of the “Blurred Lines” song, and instead required payment of an “ongoing royalty of 50% of songwriter and publishing revenues” to Marvin Gaye’s family. Although the Judge has made a ruling in this case, this dispute may continue if either party decides to appeal.
Daniel Devine, Esq.
Santucci Priore, P.L.
Sound recording of Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up” excluded in copyright infringement lawsuit between Marvin Gaye and Robin Thicke
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.