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Marvin Gaye's family sues Robin Thicke over 'Blurred Lines'

Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” will surely go down as one of the biggest songs of 2013. The slinky dance track was No. 1 for 12 weeks, sold more than 6 million copies and served as the soundtrack for one of the most deliciously trainwrecky VMA performances ever.

It also has had its share of controversy, including its NSFW video, critics blasting its sexual lyrics and the family of late soul legend Marvin Gaye calling it a blatant rip-off.

In August, Thicke, Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris Jr. (better known as T.I.)  went to a California federal court to pre-emptively protect the single from allegations that it infringed upon Gaye’s hit “Got to Give It Up” and the Funkadelic song “Sexy Ways.”

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Despite that, Gaye’s family has filed a countersuit.

In the lawsuit filed Wednesday, the family of the late singer claims that Thicke not only ripped off “Got to Give It Up” but that he also infringed on the copyright to Gaye’s “After the Dance” for the title track of his 2011 album, “Love After War.” The family further claims that the pop-R&B crooner’s “Marvin Gaye fixation” extends to other songs in his discography, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

In the suit, the family accuses Thicke of writing a similar chorus, melody  and more in “Love After War” that echoes “After the Dance” and goes on to accuse Thicke of  "including the similar bridge and identical lyrics from Marvin Gaye's 'I Want You' in Thicke's similarly-themed work, 'Make U Love Me' ”

The attorney for Thicke's camp, Howard King, gave The Hollywood Reporter this response:

"Plaintiffs anticipated a baseless counterclaim for copyright infringement when they filed their original complaint for declaratory relief, so no surprise there. What is surprising in their press-release-disguised-as-a-complaint (much of which will eventually be stricken by the court) is their acknowledgment that the Gaye family has no standing to bring a copyright claim. For this, they blame EMI, the administrator and registered copyright owner of the Marvin Gaye songs.

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"Obviously, EMI, which is in the business of collecting substantial sums for actual infringements, regardless of the publishing affiliations of the infringers, consulted their own expert musicologists who gave the same opinion our 3 musicologists gave: The genres of the songs are the same, the notes are different. So whether or not plaintiffs are fans of Marvin Gaye is irrelevant; no infringement occurred here."

The suit also targets Gaye’s music publisher, EMI April, which now operates under the company that oversees Thicke’s music. In the lawsuit, the family accuses the publisher of not protecting Gaye’s songs, attempting to intimidate them from taking legal action, not being neutral and trying to turn public opinion against them.  They want EMI to lose the rights to Gaye's catalog, as well as all profits accumulated from "Blurred Lines."

In the suit, Gaye’s family also claims that the chairman of EMI contacted its legal representatives and accused them of "ruining an incredible song," "killing the goose that laid the golden egg" and being the reason why "Blurred Lines" lost the MTV Video Music Awards it was nominated for and that the lawsuit might kill any chances that Thicke would win a Grammy for song of the year.

In the suit, the family quotes music critics at the New York Times and Rolling Stone  who wrote about similarities between the two hit singles and included a reported from a musicologist who claims Thicke's song far surpasses “the similarities that might result from attempts to evoke an 'era' of music or a shared genre” and point to a GQ interview where Thicke said he found inspiration in the track.

Follow @GerrickKennedy

gerrick.kennedy@latimes.com

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