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'Blurred Lines’ In Music Copyright Fight49:13
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Music, copyright and the “Blurred Lines” verdict. How it may lock the music industry, and songwriting.

In this file photo, Robin Thicke, left, and T.I. perform "Blurred Lines" at the Grammy Nominations Concert Live! on Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live in Los Angeles. (AP)
In this file photo, Robin Thicke, left, and T.I. perform "Blurred Lines" at the Grammy Nominations Concert Live! on Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live in Los Angeles. (AP)

“Blurred lines” captures very well the confusion in the music business right now over what is protected by copyright law and what is not.  Last week, a Los Angeles jury came down with a nearly $7.4 million judgment against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams for their 2013 mega-hit “Blurred Lines.  Said it stole from Marvin Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give it Up.”  Gaye’s family celebrated.  But a lot of composers wondered if copyright is now being extended to cover not just lyrics and melody but a whole vibe. Rhythm.  Timbre.  This hour On Point: what’s theft now when it comes to music? To song?
-- Tom Ashbrook

Guests

John Kellogg, entertainment lawyer and assistant chair of the music business management department at the Berklee College of Music. Author of "Take Care Of Your Music Business." (@kellogglaw)

Joanna Demers, forensic musicologist and chair of the department of musicology at the University of Southern California's Thorton School of Music. Author of "Steal This Music" and "Listening Through the Noise."

Bonnie McKee, singer and songwriter. (@bonniemckee)

From Tom’s Reading List

Los Angeles Times: Jurors hit Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams with $7.4-million verdict — "A federal jury found last Tuesday that the 2013 hit song 'Blurred Lines' infringed on the Marvin Gaye chart-topper 'Got to Give It Up,' awarding nearly $7.4 million to Gaye's children. Jurors found against singer-songwriters Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke, but held harmless the record company and rapper T.I."

Hollywood Reporter: 'Blurred Lines' Jury Orders Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to Pay $7.4 Million -- "In what might now be the landmark legal controversy over songcraft, the jury decided that Thicke and Williams infringed both songs and had to pay $4 million in damages (essentially accepting the Gaye family's contention that if 'Got to Give It Up' was properly licensed, the family would have gotten a 50 percent cut of the $8 million in 'Blurred Lines' publishing revenue). On top of that, the two songwriters had to hand back nearly $3.4 million of their profits on 'Blurred Lines.' The verdict will echo through the ages."

Washington Post: Blurred lines and copyright infringement — "To my ear, the (a) lyrics are different, the (b) rhythms of the two songs are different, and the (c) harmonies are different.  The similarity, like I (and others) have said, is just in 'the sound' – the groove, the vibe, call it what you will that we don’t have a really good name for but which is largely the engineer’s doing."

See More Music Copyright Examples At Our Blog

This program aired on March 17, 2015.

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