Blurred lines, but not for copyright enforcement

Blurred lines, but not for copyright enforcement

Blurred lines, but not for copyright enforcement


The Rolling Stone has recently published an article regarding a very blunt lesson learnt by Robin Thicke (Ft. Pharrell Williams and T.I.) in relation to their song entitled ‘Blurred Lines’: copyright does matter.

The verdict of today’s court session in Los Angeles is that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were ordered to pay US$7.3 million of the US$25 million claimed to the estate of Marvin Gaye as a result of their rip of Gaye’s 1977 hit ‘Got to Give it Up’.

This verdict marks the highest damages awarded in a US copyright infringement case trumping the previous record holder, Michael Bolton and the US$5.4 million award against him for the infringing use of the Isley Brother’s hit ‘Love is a Wonderful Thing’.

It is interesting to note that, prior to the award for damages; Robin Thicke (Ft. Pharrell Williams and T.I.) had sought a Declaration of Non-Infringement in the Central District Court of California and through throughout the judicial process leading up to the award for damages mentioned that the intention was to invoke the era of ‘Got to Give it Up’.  Essentially, the court and jury have made it clear that this is not relevant when it comes to infringement. The relevant aspect was that ‘Blurred Lines’ was not original and that it overlaps with copyright work to the extent that it infringes the prior copyright work.

Furthermore, the jury effectively dismissed the attempted justification that “Thicke was… drunk and high on Vicodin when he recorded “Blurred Lines” and that he was barely involved in its production, claiming Williams [most of the song]”.

Two important points can be drawn from this; firstly, claiming that you are not guilty by way of Declaration of Non-Infringement does not mean you are not guilty and, secondly, being drunk and high at the time of recording does not remove the liability for copyright infringement.

There are a few other, less humorous, lessons that can be learnt from this decision which are important to acknowledge.

  • The assumption that copyright is an annoying law term and has no effect is not correct.
  • The cost of failing to ensure that work is original can be substantial.
  • Copyright is litigated and courts are willing to award substantial damages for infringement.

If there is any doubt in relation to the originality of a work, existence of copyright or ramifications of copyright the best course of action is to seek legal advice. We can help you with same.

For all matters concerning copyright law and infringement, contact our Intellectual Property Lawyers today.

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