Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"Blurred Lines" Decision Could Be Overturned On Appeal

As a copyright lawyer, it is my opinion that this "Blurred Lines" decision could well be overturned on appeal by a higher court. 

The genre or musical style of a song is not protectable under copyright law - the lyrics and the melody are, but that was not the allegation in this case. The claim here was that defendants copied the groove and style of the Marvin Gaye song "Got To Give It Up", and I do not believe that the jury's decision would be upheld on appeal as a matter of copyright law (although a jury might not understand that concept).

In modern popular music it is understandable that current artists are effectively midgets standing on the shoulders of giants in order to reach new heights... and some similarities are bound to appear in the new works so created. However, when it comes to the particulars and technicalities of copyright law, emotions (particularly envy and jealousy) are usually not well-suited to reaching a correct resolution (and that applies to the jury as well as the many public opinions that abound on this case).

To date, this "Blurred Lines" decision is the only copyright infringement lawsuit ever in which no specific melody, harmony, rhythm or lyrics were copied. The "that songs reminds me of another song" threshold would be a new legal standard. If this is the new threshold for copyright infringement, a lot of modern artists (like Bruno Mars) and 60s British artists (from the Beatles to Led Zeppelin) could be in trouble!

See case info here: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/blurred-lines-jury-orders-robin-779445


Wallace Collins is an entertainment and intellectual property lawyer based in New York with more than 30 years of experience. He was a recording artist for Epic Records before receiving his law degree from Fordham Law School. Tel: (212) 661-3656;  www.wallacecollins.com 

10 comments:

  1. I am a songwriter/composer with a Ph.D. in music theory, music analysis was my focus and thus have particularly strong credentials for comparing on song to another. So I have been hired to work as an expert witness (musicologist) on a couple of cases involving big stars.

    Pharrell spoke the truth when he said that he copied the feel and did not infringe. Pharrell's Blurred Lines starts with these scale degrees (note positions within the scale used) for the melody: 323332113. Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give it Up" melody starts with these scale degrees: 55556126. That would be like looking at two paintings with different subjects and mostly different colors.

    Pharell’s team needs to do the kind of explanation above in comparing the sheet music with the melodies of the two songs, I don’t see this as something that even Gaye’s experts could deny once the fact that the melodies are not related is explained simply and clearly in this manner. The other similarities the Gaye experts found between the songs shouldn’t be more decisive than the fact that the melody of Blurred Lines was not taken from “Got To Give It Up.” Most pop songs have common elements of structure and repetition, many share stylistic elements. Pharrell has the right to write a song with a similar groove and feel to Marvin Gaye and then invent his own melody without having to pay anyone else to do so.

    David Stern, Ph.D.
    www.davidsternmusic.com

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    1. Thanks for the technical information. Appreciate the expert support!

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  3. https://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/legal-and-management/6553809/blurred-lines-judge-asked-to-grant-new-trial

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  4. That would be like looking at two paintings with different subjects and mostly different colors. lease deed

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