Two months after a jury found that singer Robin Thicke and producer Pharrell Williams infringed on Marvin Gaye’s song “Got to Give it Up” in their 2013 hit “Blurred Lines,” the legal fight drags on: Attorneys for the music stars are now demanding a new trial.
The verdict was returned March 10 after a two-week trial in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom that offered a window into the creative and financial affairs of the music industry.
In a motion filed late last week in federal court, lawyers for Thicke and Williams criticized the jury’s award of $7.4 million in damages to Gaye’s heirs, calling the verdict “unfounded, illogical and a miscarriage of justice.”
Such a “defective” verdict was the result of flawed jury instructions and prejudicial evidence allowed by the judge, the attorneys said.
Central to the motion’s arguments is what version of Gaye’s 1977 chart-topper jurors were allowed to hear. The judge ruled that jurors could consider only the sheet music composition of “Got to Give it Up,” not the sound recording, because laws at the time of the song’s creation did not allow recordings to be copyrighted.
Thus, attorneys said, jurors were improperly swayed by the testimony of laymen — including Gaye’s former wife, Janis Gaye, who could not read music but nevertheless spoke to similarities between the songs.
A musicologist’s testimony, who based her opinion on the songs’ similarities on elements absent in the sheet music but present in subsequent recordings should have been inadmissible, the attorneys argued.
Meanwhile, in a motion also filed Friday, Gaye’s family sought to have the jury’s verdict confirmed by U.S. District Judge John A. Kronstadt, who is expected to hear oral arguments on the various motions at a hearing scheduled for June 29.
In the same motion, Gaye’s heirs are seeking to have the rapper T.I. and the record companies involved in “Blurred Lines” production and distribution be declared liable for the song’s infringement, arguing that everyone involved in the creation and sale of the hit should be held responsible.
T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris, and various record companies were also sued along with Williams and Thicke. Although T.I. is credited as a songwriter of “Blurred Lines” and has a 13% stake in the song’s copyright, the jury didn’t find him liable for infringement.
In a prior motion that’s also before the judge, Gaye’s family sought a court-issued injunction halting the distribution and performance of the song, saying that the continued sale of the song perpetuates the copyright infringement.