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Landmark Case

Williams v. Gaye, 895 F.3d 1106 (9th Cir. 2018)

Authored by: Michelle Bogre , Nancy Wolff

The Routledge Companion to Copyright and Creativity in the 21st Century

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138999251
eBook ISBN: 9781315658445
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315658445-30

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Abstract

Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’s “Blurred Lines” was the top-selling single in the world in 2013. The song was obviously a hit, but it attracted controversy on multiple fronts. Some listeners were upset by the song’s lyrics, which they read as misogynistic and encouraging harmful perceptions of consent. Another line of criticism centered on the song’s catchy melody and eventually snowballed into a copyright infringement lawsuit. Indeed, Marvin Gaye’s estate argued that the song infringed on Gaye’s 1976 hit “Got To Give It Up” and alleged copyright infringement not just against Thicke, Williams, and their record company but also against Clifford Harris, Jr. (commonly known as the rapper T.I.), who had separately written and recorded a verse that was subsequently added to “Blurred Lines.” The dispute garnered tremendous attention, with musicians, critics, industry professionals, and copyright scholars falling on both sides. The case went to trial, musicologists were brought in, and the jury awarded the Gaye estate $7.3 million in actual damages and infringer’s profits from both Williams and Thicke.

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