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Musicologist Who Testified In 'Blurred Lines' Trial Explains Her Case

During our March 17 program on the controversial verdict in the intellectual copyright case surrounding the 2013 mega-hit "Blurred Lines," our phones and inboxes lit up with your opinions on the facts surrounding the case. One listener, musicologist Sandy Wilbur of New York City, wrote in with her interpretation of the case and what's at stake. Wilbur testified and provided musicological analysis for Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams in the Los Angeles trial. Her thoughts are reprinted here, with Wilbur's permission.

The songs themselves are very different, using different structures, harmonic patterns, melodies, lyrics and melodic and harmonic rhythms. Of the “eight constellation of similarities” sited by the other side, only three were in the music deposit copy filed with the copyright office in 1977 and considered protectable elements by the court.

Of these three mainly melodic elements (referred to as signature phrase, hook, and bass), there were no two consecutive notes in any of these parts that occurred in the same place and with the same duration.

Therefore, these songs are different from one another. Of the remaining five “similarities,” NOT in the deposit copy (including percussion choices, piano part, hook harmonies and background vocal parts and harmonies).

These elements were part of the arrangement, instrumental choices, feel or groove of the piece and not part of the protectable elements of the song (as found in the deposit copy).

Groove and feel are not part of a song. Songwriters and composers will think twice before mentioning any others who might have inspired them.

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