Responding to a lawsuit by "Blurred Lines" singer Robin Thicke, Marvin Gaye's family is suing Thicke for allegedly stealing two of the deceased singer's songs.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Gaye family's suit asserts that Robin Thicke has a "Marvin Gaye fixation" that extends to more songs in the pop star's repertoire.
How will Thicke and the Gayes' suits shake out?
Thicke's Declaratory Judgment Suit
This whole conflict began in August when Thicke and his producers -- perhaps feeling anxious about "Blurred Lines'" legality -- filed suit in a California court against the Gaye family.
This lawsuit was strange for several reasons:
- Thicke and his producers wanted the court to declare that "Blurred Lines" was not infringing on Gaye's "Got to Give It Up."
- At the time, however, neither the Gayes nor the studio that held the copyright to the song in question had sued Thicke over "Blurred Lines."
Essentially, Thicke was asking for a declaratory judgment -- for the court to come to a legal conclusion about an issue -- without an actual conflict existing. Typically, courts do not like to pre-emptively hear cases that contain hypothetical or prospective conflicts, but in Thicke's case, his lawsuit was not dismissed.
Gaye Family Files Countersuit
According to the Reporter, Gaye's children Frankie and Nona filed suit against Thicke on Wednesday, alleging that "Blurred Lines" contains "blatant copying of a constellation of distinctive and significant compositional elements" from "Got to Give It Up."
Jon Caramanica, music critic for The New York Times, noted in August that Thicke's "Blurred Lines" was influenced heavily by Gaye's "Got to Give It Up."
However, as Thicke's suit argues, having a "feel" or "groove" that is reminiscent of a song is not the same thing as copyright infringement. One can copyright a song and its master recording, but the elements or musical concepts within it are typically not covered by copyright.
Aside from "Blurred Lines," the Reporter relates that the Gayes have also accused Thicke of infringing on elements from Marvin Gaye's other songs, such as the chorus and melody in Gaye's "After the Dance" in Thicke's "Love After War."
It's hard to feel bad for Thicke in this case; he provoked the Gaye family by filing his pre-emptive legal attack, and they responded in kind. It's now up to the court system to sort out the blurred legal lines in this copyright battle.
- Marvin Gaye's Kids Sue Robin Thicke Over "Blurred Lines" and "Love After War" (E! Online)
- Robin Thicke Crashes his Porsche into a Parked Car (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice)
- Is it Illegal to Remix Music? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- Obtaining Permission before Sampling Music (FindLaw)