This has to be one of the few instances in litigation where you should just pay the money. Pharrell is currently embroiled in a court battle with the estate of Marvin Gaye. He’s defending himself against the claim the hit song, Blurred Lines, borrowed heavily from marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to Give it Up.’
Any use of chords or beats from the Marvin Gaye classic were completely accidental according to Pharrell. He had Miley Cyrus on his mind when he was producing the track. Yeah, throw a big ‘you’re kidding, right?’ on that one.
“I had Earl Sweatshirt in one room and Miley Cyrus in the other. I was doing a bunch of country-sounding music with Miley,” Williams stated. “It was like blending this country sound with this up-tempo groove.”
Well, we know the secondary reason the song became annoying. Not only did radio stations have it on repeat every 15 minutes, the song was inspired by Miley Cyrus of all people.
It is an interesting court strategy. It’s out of left field, so you have to consider it. Exhibit A can be the raunchy VMA performance with Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus in 2013. The song definitely inspired something.
But, can the Miley excuse hold up when the beats are this similar? Pharrell acknowledges the similarities between the two tracks, but denies he consciously copied Marvin Gaye.
The court could follow recent precedent. Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne recently were awarded minor songwriting credit on Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me.’ The song was instrumentally similar to The Heartbreaker’s ‘I Won’t Back Down.’
Petty was quick to defend Sam Smith in the proceedings, and thought it was nothing but an accident. He said it was common in the music industry. Details of the any settlement were sealed, and the Gaye estate could follow the same path if they don’t get too overzealous.
That’s key when dealing with infringement. Estates tend to stray into overzealous territory and get shot down by the court.
Testimony has been interesting in the case. last week, Robin Thicke played U2 and Beatles hit song on a piano to show the similarities in the rhythm and medley that is pervasive in the industry.
How does this shake out? It just depends. Most observers see a settlement before the trial wraps up, but that’s highly dependent on the estate of Marvin Gaye.