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Blurred Lines song-theft ruling stands as Supreme Court deadline passes

By | Published on Thursday 13 December 2018

Blurred Lines

The ‘Blurred Lines’ song-theft saga is finally at an end after the deadline passed for Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke to take the case to US Supreme Court. With that deadline passed a judge has finalised the damages that must now be paid to the Marvin Gaye estate, while confirming that it will also receive 50% of any future royalties generated by the song.

Williams and Thicke were accused, of course, of ripping off Gaye’s ‘Got To Give It Up’ on their already controversial 2013 hit ‘Blurred Lines’. It was actually them who sued the Gaye estate, seeking judicial confirmation that the alleged rip off didn’t constitute copyright infringement. It was a move that backfired big time when, in 2015, a jury decided that they had, in fact, infringed Marvin Gaye’s song copyright.

The judgement was controversial within much of the songwriting community because many felt it set a dangerous precedent that could result in a flood of copyright infringement lawsuits against songs that had been influenced by earlier works. This was based on support for the argument put forward by Williams and Thicke that ‘Blurred Lines’ shared a ‘vibe’ with ‘Got To Give It Up’ but wasn’t a straight rip-off.

The terrible twosome appealed the judgement, but in March this year the Ninth Circuit appeals court pretty much endorsed the jury’s original decision and rejected arguments put forward as to why that judgement had been flawed. However, there was one dissenting judge in the appeals court who shared the concerns expressed by many in the songwriting community. She concluded that the ruling “establishes a dangerous precedent that strikes a devastating blow to future musicians and composers everywhere”.

Williams and Thicke asked the Ninth Circuit to reconsider its ruling ‘en banc’, which would mean all of the judges of that court would hear both side’s arguments. But the appeals court declined to reconsider its earlier decision, meaning that the next route of appeal for the ‘Blurred Lines’ makers was to go to the American Supreme Court.

However, the deadline for requesting that the Supreme Court hear the case has now passed without any request being made. To that end the judge who oversaw the original court hearing confirmed on Monday the nearly $5 million in damages that must now be handed over. The damages will paid by Williams and Thicke themselves and the former’s publishing entity More Water From Nazareth.

At one point the Gaye family also requested an injunction to stop the future distribution of ‘Blurred Lines’, but judge John Kronstadt declined to grant such a thing, instead saying he would award the estate 50% of future royalties. That royalty arrangement was also reconfirmed this week.