Copyright trial over Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' to wrap up

Copyright trial over Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' to wrap up
Robin Thicke, front, performs with Pharrell Williams, right, during the 2014 Pre-Grammy gala at the Beverly Hilton. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

An attorney representing Marvin Gaye's family told jurors on Thursday that they should award millions of dollars in damages for copyright infringement by the 2013 song "Blurred Lines"‎ of Gaye's 1977 chart-topper "Got to Give it Up."

Richard Busch, an attorney for Gaye's children, told jurors they could award as much as $25 million from the publishing income and profits from the 2013 hit, for what he said was a deliberate infringement of Gaye's song by Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and rapper T.I. 

"Not the feeling of 'Got to Give It Up,' not the era of 'Got to Give It Up,'" Busch said Thursday during closing arguments. "They took 'Got to Give It Up,' they took it for themselves."

But ‎an attorney for the musicians said that his clients had stood on the shoulders of musical giants of the past as all musicians do, but had not copied Gaye's song.


"There are no virgin births in music," attorney Howard King said. He said the Gaye family musicologist who testified about similarities between the song was "taking a microscope out after the fact."

King said to side with the Gayes in the case would be "stifling‎" for young musicians starting out in the industry and the record companies financing them.

"The Gaye family doesn't own a genre, a style or a groove," he said. "No one can claim they own the style and feel of an era."

But Busch noted that no other musicians or songs of the era were compared with "Blurred Lines," only Gaye's song -- similarities that were noted in the media and acknowledged in ‎interviews by Thicke and Williams themselves.

Williams "didn't say I took the feeling of James Brown," the attorney said.

Each side attempted to discredit musical experts who had testified for the other, saying they ‎were misrepresenting the songs or their elements.

Thicke and Williams, who both took the stand in their defense in the case, were present in court, bopping their heads along when the two recordings were played -- Thicke more apparently than Williams.

Jurors began deliberating late Thursday.

The trial, which lasted just over a week, has been a mix of microscopic analysis that broke the songs down to a few notes or a sequence of rhythms and a behind-the-scenes look at the multimillion-dollar industry that forms around one popular song.

The Gaye family's lawyer has seized on statements Thicke made in media interviews that he and Williams wrote "Blurred Lines" after he suggested to Williams that they write something like one of his favorite songs, "Got to Give It Up." Williams has said he was "trying to pretend" he was Gaye when he penned it.

On the witness stand during the trial, Thicke said he told lies, while drunk and high on Vicodin, during those interviews, wanting to take some credit despite having had next to nothing to do with the writing of the song. Williams testified on Wednesday that it was only after the fact that he realized that the song was in the late-'70s "feel" of Gaye, but that he did not specifically think of Gaye or talk about him when creating the song.

"Feel, but not infringement," Williams said when asked whether he recognized similarities between the songs.

Thicke said he gave what he called "revisionist history" in the press because "it felt like a little white lie that wouldn't hurt his career and boost‎ mine."

Janis Gaye, the late Motown star's ex-wife and the mother of his children, said there was no doubt in her mind as soon as she heard the song that it had been taken from "Got to Give It Up." She said she was baffled to find out the songwriters hadn't licensed Gaye's work.

"It's the living legacy Marvin left behind for his children, his family, his fans and the world," she testified.

For more news on Los Angeles' federal courts, follow @vicjkim.