When the verdict in the “Blurred Lines” vs. “Got to Give It Up” trial came down, I told everyone who would listen that this set a horrible precedent. Copyright infringement just because one song “feels” like another? It’s illegal to write a song inspired by the sound of another? Uh-oh.
My theory was that this was going to create a generation of ambulance-chasing lawyers anxious to manufacture paydays by going to older artists and saying “You know, [insert name of current hit here] sounds and feels a lot like a song you wrote and released in [year]. We should sue! It worked for Marvin Gaye’s family.”
Most of the people I floated this theory past said,”Naw, you’re paranoid. This isn’t what this case is about. This isn’t going to happen.”
“Yeah, but this is the Litigious States of America where people sue over everything. Won’t someone launch a suit in one of those lenient ex-Texas jurisdictions and hope to set capitalize on the ‘Blurred Lines’ precedent.”
“No,” they maintained. “It won’t be like that.”
Oh, yeah? Let’s see what the BBC has to say.
People in the music industry are “getting paranoid about infringing copyright” after it was ruled that Blurred Lines “copied” another song, a leading forensic musicologist has told Newsbeat.
Peter Oxendale, who worked on the case, says his workload has increased so much he’s employed his son Jamie to help.
In March, a jury ruled Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke had infringedMarvin Gaye hit Got To Give It Up. Gaye’s family was awarded $7.3m (£4.8m) in damages.
Peter says the verdict has made the whole music industry “worried”.
The case is still not fully resolved after an appeal from Pharrell’s team but Oxendale says the initial judgement was “appalling”.
“The Blurred lines outcome was an appalling decision. It was a jury trial in Los Angeles and they can always be difficult because a jury is asked to decide on technical facts.
“And often they are overwhelmed by the personalities involved.
“And in this case in Blurred Lines the verdict of the jury, in my opinion, was wrong on the facts. There’s no science to it.
“The songs… they have different structures, they have different underlying harmonies, they have different vocal melodies, they have entirely different lyrics.
“In fact, there are no two consecutive notes in the vocal melodies or even the bass lines that occur in the same place for the same duration.
“They are, by definition, different songs.”
He said that the songs are similar in “one respect… they have similar feels, similar vibes, similar grooves, but that’s not enough for an infringement”.
“A jury can say the sky is green but that doesn’t mean it is.”
And now it’s getting weird. Can you say “pre-emptive strikes?”