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The blurred lines of music copyright

Written by Samuel O'Toole on 05 September 2016

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The blurred lines case may blur music creativity, at least this is what the lawyers for Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke and TI will argue. In their opening brief of the appeal they have stated that the verdict would inhibit the process by which later artists draw inspiration from earlier artists to create new popular music.

The case revolves around Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give it Up”, last year a jury ruled that the Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke and TI had copied Gaye’s hit in their song titled “Blurred Lines”.  They had been ordered to pay $7.4 million however this had been reduced to $5.3 million to pay to the family of Marvin Gaye.

The appeal is concerned with the fact that the Judge and jury did not consider the sheet music, a deposit copy that was filed at the US copyright office. Instead the Judge and jury were influenced by the actual recordings of the songs.  This effectively moves the emphasis in music copyright from the sheet music and the composition to the sound it’s self.

Music styles and tastes evolve over time and it would appear that music copyright has evolved into something blurred between composition and sound. 

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