Music Business

“Blurred Lines” Decision Could Be Overturned On Appeal

Robin-thicke-blurred-lines-music-video"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."

Guest Post by Wallace Collins on Entertainment Industry Law Issues
 
As a copyright lawyer, it is my opinion that this decision will be overturned on appeal. 
 
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 style of the Marvin Gaye song, 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). 
 
Copyright-trademark-logoTo date, this is the only copyright infringement lawsuit ever in which no 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 Zepplin) could be in trouble!
 
See case info here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/10/jury-verdit-blurred-lines_n_6842732.html
 
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 
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3 Comments

  1. I believe the jury decision was correct. The rhythm track and feel of Got To Give It Up was copied is unique – it isn’t reminiscent of the Motown Sound, or any particular genre or style – it really isn’t reminiscent of any of Marvin Gaye’s other songs. Blurred Lines pretty much copies this rhythm, including using a similar bass part and a keyboard part is rhythmically almost identical. Even though the chords, melody, lyrics and harmonies of Blurred Lines are different, those differences do not overcome the striking similarities of the two songs. What needs to be looked at, I think, for future cases, is the criteria which is used to decide whether one song infringes on another. Songwriting has evolved such that melody and lyrics are no longer the only dominant or primary identifying elements of a song; sometimes it is the bass line, or the rhythm track. Instead of limiting the criteria solely to the melody and lyrics, the question needs to asked, “What are the dominant and unique elements of a particular song?” The elements that meet the criteria of being dominant, uniques and distinctive should be protected.

  2. “Even though the chords, melody, lyrics and harmonies of Blurred Lines are different, those differences do not overcome the striking similarities of the two songs.”
    So basically, you feel that it is exactly the same, regardless how different you also acknowledge it to be. What a bizarre, contradictory analysis, which by your own words 100% justifies what the writer of the article has said. I hope you’re NEVER on a jury in your lifetime.

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