The music industry is in an uproar over the decision in the Blurred Lines copyright infringement lawsuit, or at least some folks are angry.
In 2015, I reported about a case involving Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and Marvin Gaye. A California jury decided that the Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke song, titled, “Blurred Lines” infringed the copyright in Marvin Gaye’s song, “Got To Give It Up.” The jury awarded the Gaye estate $7.3 million. There was a jury trial where the jury was given the opportunity to hear audio and expert testimony concerning the similarity between the two works. The jury ruled in favor of the Gaye estate.
Blurred Lines Lawsuit on Appeal.
On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the judgment in 2-1 split decision. Williams v. Gaye, No. 15-56880 (9th Cir. March 21, 2018). The main question in the case was whether “Blurred Lines” was “substantially similar” to “Got To Give It Up.” Unless they have good reason, most appeals courts are reluctant to overturn jury verdicts.
As one can imagine, not only are Thicke and Williams disappointed with the outcome, but many in the music industry. The decision gives pause to every artist who feels the need to use someone else’s copyright protected content without permission.
While I am personally pleased with the outcome, I believe it is unlikely that this matter is over. A dissenting voice on the Ninth Circuit panel of judges stated that the case should not have gone to the jury in the first place. That it was a matter for a judge to decide. And further, the case should have been dismissed as a matter of law.
One of two things are likely to occur next—a request for the case to be heard en banc (by the entire Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) or a request (and grant of certiorari) for Supreme Court review.