In February this year, we issued an update on the high profile copyright case involving Robin Thicke and Pharrell William's controversial chart-topper "Blurred Lines" and Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up".
Just when we thought the media frenzy that ensued from the 2013 hit and its provocative lyrics had died down, Blurred Lines charged back into the limelight. This time, the creators of Blurred Lines – Thicke, Williams and Clifford Harris Jr (more commonly known as rapper, T.I) – were facing legal action by the Gaye family that the musical work was in fact a breach of the copyright in Marvin Gaye's famous track, Got to Give It Up.
It was claimed by the Gaye family that Blurred Lines, which has made profits of more than $16 million and earned a Grammy nomination, and Got to Give It Up had similar features in terms of the sheet music and sound recordings that surpassed "the realm of generic coincidence".
A Los Angeles civil court has now agreed with the Gaye family, awarding the family of the late musician nearly $7.4million having found that Blurred Lines did indeed copy the track, Got to Give It Up.
The verdict acts as a stark reminder to artists of creative works that taking creative inspiration from and allowing yourself to be influenced by existing copyright works is a potentially risky and costly business. The Gaye family's lawyer has been quoted as saying that they will be looking for an injunction (an interdict in Scotland ) on the sale of the song Blurred Lines until it can be agreed how future profits will be split. It looks as if this could cost the Blurred Lines trio a lot more in the future.
We regularly hear opinions that all pop music 'sounds the same', and it is well known that musicians frequently draw inspiration from other works. Indeed even Pharrell Williams defended himself by saying all that was similar was the "feel" of the song. However, it needs to be remembered that there is a fine and blurry(!) line between merely being inspired by the "feel" or "groove" of a work and copyright infringement.
For all businesses involved in the production of creative works or inventions or designs it is essential to consider the basis for the inspiration behind the work or design or invention and to try to ensure that the creative process is fully understood. It is vital that a business can demonstrate in detail – if it is forced to defend its position if a claim of copyright infringement is made – how it came up with an idea or concept and then how that same idea or concept was developed. Additionally a business will often be required by a client to warrant that the work it is producing is an original work and if it is subsequently held to be a copyright infringement of a third party work the business will be faced not only with a claim for damages and costs of that third party but a potential claim for breach of warranty by the relevant client.
It remains to be seen whether the decision will be appealed, but even if it does, this whole debacle is evidence the importance of being aware of your creative influences. It pays to be original!