It comes as no surprise that Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke and TI have filed their appeal against the verdict in the ‘Blurred Lines’ case that saw them ordered to pay $5.3m (reduced from the orginal $7.3 million) and pay over 50% of songwriting and publishing revenues to the family of Marvin Gaye, after a jury ruled last year that their song copied Gaye’s 1977 hit ‘Got to Give It Up’. Lawyers for the trio filed their opening brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on 24th August, arguing that “if left to stand, the Blurred Lines verdict would chill musical creativity and inhibit the process by which later artists draw inspiration from earlier artists to create new popular music” and at the heart of their appeal is the argument that the Judge and indeed the jury should have simply considered the sheet music – the “deposit copy” filed with the US copyright office – and not been influenced by the actual recordings of either song. The “Blurred Lines” writers assert that when the court examined the two songs before the trial, Judge John A. Kronstadt should have ruled that the case was not worthy of trial.
The brief states: “What happened instead was a cascade of legal errors warranting this court’s reversal or vacatur for new trial …. At summary judgment, the district court entertained expert testimony by musicologists for the Gayes who based their opinions entirely on the sound recording, not the deposit copy. The court correctly filtered out non-deposit copy and generic musical features from their testimony, but then erroneously failed to compare what remained to Blurred Lines …. At trial, the district court made things worse. While correctly excluding the Got to Give It Up sound recording itself, the court erroneously allowed the Gayes’ experts to testify about the sound recording anyway, including by playing their own musical excerpts based on the sound recording. The court then instructed the jury that it could consider all this testimony in its substantial-similarity analysis.”
This writer was expecting an appeal well before the recent decision in the ‘Stairway to Heaven Case’ where Led Zeppelin where found not to have plagiarised a song ‘Taurus’ by Spirit – a decision must have boosted the appellant’s confidence.