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Marvin Gaye estate say Pharrell Williams’ response to perjury claims “lacks credibility”

By | Published on Wednesday 4 March 2020

Blurred Lines

The Marvin Gaye estate has filed new legal papers that accuse Pharrell Williams of having committed perjury during the big ‘Blurred Lines’ copyright case. That allegation relates to an interview the producer gave to GQ last year and – in the new legal filing – the Gaye estate disparages the excuses Team Williams have provided over comments that he made in said magazine feature that seem to contradict what he previously said in court.

Williams and Robin Thicke were, of course, accused of ripping off Gaye’s ‘Got To Give It Up’ when they wrote their 2013 hit ‘Blurred Lines’. Williams and Thicke went legal in a bid to get court confirmation that no rip off had occurred. But that venture backfired big time when a jury ruled that the duo had indeed infringed the copyright in the Gaye song by lifting elements of it for ‘Blurred Lines’. The Gaye estate scored a neat $5 million in damages.

That controversial ruling came up during a GQ-instigated conversation between Williams and fellow producer Rick Rubin last year. Williams insisted that it was a bad judgement because he had only borrowed a “feeling” from ‘Got To Give It Up’ and you “can’t copyright” that.

But he also said “What [we’d] always try to do was reverse engineer the songs that did something to us emotionally and figure out where the mechanism is in there, and as I said to you before, try to figure out if we can build a building that doesn’t look the same but makes you feel the same way”.

“I did that in ‘Blurred Lines'”, he added, “and got myself in trouble … I really made it feel so much like it [‘Got To Give It Up’] that people were like, oh, I hear the same thing”.

It’s those quotes that the Gaye estate have taken issue with. Because, they say, Williams’ more recent remarks contradict what he said in court, when he outright denied going into the studio on the day ‘Blurred Lines’ was written with “the intention of making anything feel like ‘Got To Give It Up’ or to sound like Marvin Gaye”.

In an earlier deposition he also said: “When I am searching for music, which I don’t expect you to understand this, but we look into oblivion. We look into that which does not exist”.

These statements under oath are “irreconcilable” with the GQ interview, the estate argue, “and it is thus clear that Mr Williams’ testimony under oath in the courtroom and in deposition was untruthful. The interview statements speak undeniably to the process Williams went through during the very time that he was composing ‘Blurred Lines'”.

They go on: “Dead contrary to Gaye and ‘Got To Give It Up’ not entering his mind, Williams, well after the trial was concluded, and while mistakenly believing he was now free to tell the truth, admitted in the interview that he reverse engineered ‘Got To’ in composing ‘Blurred’, and that he ‘does that all the time'”.

The estate also point out that one of the reasons people first started saying ‘Blurred Lines’ ripped off Gaye’s song – well before any legal action – was because Robin Thicke, while promoting his hit, said that the song originated in him suggesting to Williams that they write something like ‘Got To Give It Up’.

Given what Williams subsequently said in his deposition and during the trial, the duo had to play down those previous comments during the big court case itself.

The Gaye estate’s new legal filing notes that doing so “required Robin Thicke to explain in sworn testimony that he was ‘drunk and high’ in each interview in which he said that he told Williams to create a song like ‘Got To’. Alternatively, Thicke and Williams explained that those statements were made solely to promote ‘Blurred'”.

That’s relevant now because legal reps for Williams have used a similar explanation for last year’s comments in the GQ feature.

The Gaye estate pointed out the alleged contradictions between Williams’ various remarks on the writing of ‘Blurred Lines’ shortly after the GQ piece was published.

Lawyers for Williams then responded in January, mainly arguing that any alleged contradictions were irrelevant anyway as they didn’t justify reopening up the old litigation. However, they also added again that things said in promotional interviews should not be taken as legal statements.

But, the Gaye estate say, the claim that Williams’ “recent interview statement was just an additional out of court ‘promotional’ falsehood” is “utterly lacking in credibility”.

They go on, “‘Blurred Lines’ was not being promoted. The interview was not an effort to sell the song, and ‘Blurred Lines’ was not the focus of it. Williams was instead replying to a question in a setting in which he felt that he could comfortably tell the truth about his process in creating music”.

You might wonder why the Gaye estate – having won the ‘Blurred Lines’ case and that $5 million in damages – even care about all this. But at the time of their big win, the Gaye side reckoned that, in addition to the damages, they should have been awarded legal costs, which totalled about $3.5 million. That request was denied. But the alleged perjury, they now say, should be grounds for reversing that particular decision.

In an earlier filing on this side dispute, the Gaye estate’s attorneys wrote: “As a result of Williams’s new admissions, which amount to nothing less than an admission of fraud on the court, and show a disregard for the sanctity of these proceedings, the court should amend the judgment in order to revisit and reverse its denial of attorneys’ fees and costs”.

It now remains to be seen how the court responds.