Intellectual property disputes in the music industry have been a hot topic in this day and age and with a court ruling that Pharrell and Robin Thicke owe royalties to the family of Marvin Gaye, a precedent has been established for future cases.
“Blurred Lines,” the hit of the summer of 2014 that you may have witnessed your mom getting down to after one too many drinks of champagne at your cousin’s wedding, has been at the center of controversy since the family of Marvin Gaye sued Robin Thicke and Pharrell over royalties. The suit sparked debate over the use of intellectual property, but with the decision that Gaye’s family be awarded 7.3 million dollars, the biggest damage has been done in establishing a bar for future similar cases.
Stereogum detailed the court’s decision and further indicated that based on the song’s revenue, the $7.3 million is more than each individual artist made off of the song itself. This comes months after a courts ruled that Sam Smith pay royalties for his ubiquitous hit “Stay With Me” to Tom Petty for similarities between the chorus of his song “I Won’t Back Down.” Petty later admitted that he thought that it wasn’t intentional, but was happy with the decision he felt he and his cowriter were owed.
To add further insult to injury, Marvin Gaye’s estate is looking to halt all sales of the song until an agreement can be reached over future royalty payouts. This ignites an interesting argument in the discussion of intellectual property, not only because of the utilization of said property but also entailing the distribution and financial gains of said property. The line that is drawn between what is fair use and what is not is blurred, and the repercussions of crossing that line seem to be devastating to the pockets of the offending artist.
In a statement released by the artists:
“While we respect the judicial process, we are extremely disappointed in the ruling made today, which sets a horrible precedent for music and creativity going forward. ‘Blurred Lines’ was created from the heart and minds of Pharrell, Robin and T.I. and not taken from anyone or anywhere else. We are reviewing the decision, considering our options and you will hear more from us soon about this matter.”
In the wake of this kind of precedent, are the courts looking to make an example out of Thicke and Pharrell in hopes that other artists will look to the results of this case as a deterrent or could we just be looking at an isolated case? Furthermore, it will be interesting to see if this decision may cause an upward trend of suits in the upcoming years.