'Blurred Lines' may get another trial
Back in March, a jury ruled that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams had copied parts of Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” in their own smash hit “Blurred Lines,” and owed the soul singer’s estate $7.4 million for copyright infringement. But that verdict was far from the final word in the saga.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the ruling now rests in the hands of U.S. District Judge John Kronstadt, who has to determine exactly what the verdict means for the parties involved. The trial jury simply ruled that Thicke and Williams owed Gaye’s estate $7.4 million—but didn’t provide instructions for what happens next. The Gaye family is asking for an injunction on “Blurred Lines,” which would force Thicke and Williams to negotiate new licensing fees to continue using the song.
The “Blurred Lines” artists have a decidedly different vision for how the legal episode will proceed. At the very least, Thicke and Williams’ lawyers would like to see Kronstadt reduce the damages awarded by the jury in March. But their lawyers have also filed a motion for a new trial, citing incorrect jury instructions, improper testimony from a musicologist and generally insufficient evidence.
Here’s the thing about the initial trial: Kronstadt decided before it began to limit the copyright’s definition to what was in the sheet music, forcing jurors to ignore the “groove” of the song. That created challenges during the trial, including a somewhat shocking technicality preventing Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” from actually being played in the courtroom. (Gaye’s family later provided a stripped-down version of the track that removed the vocals and percussion that the judge had cited as extraneous.)
Limiting the copyright debate to the sheet music complicated the trial in a way that Thicke and Williams’ lawyers are now using as grounds for a new trial. They claim that the testimony provided by a musicologist about the similarities between the two songs confused the jury, because it referenced traits other than those contained in the written music—in other words, evidence that shouldn’t have been permitted in the trial. When it came time for the jury to deliberate, Thicke and Williams’ lawyers argued that “the jury faced an impossible task of having to constantly distinguish between the select parts of what they saw and hear each day that they could consider later in reaching their verdict, and the parts they could not,” according to their motion for a new trial.
That logic also applies to Thicke and Williams’ request for a reduction in damages. Their team’s musicologist claimed “Blurred Lines” copied less that 5 percent of Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up,” so the “Blurred Lines” artists want the $7.4 million award reduced to a corresponding $680,000. Gaye’s camp, on the other hand, has filed multiple motions that range from suggesting Interscope Records should be held accountable for the copyright infringement and requesting an end to “Blurred Lines” distribution—or 50 percent of all future “Blurred Lines” songwriting and publishing revenues.
Judge Kronstadt will decide how the case will proceed at a June 29 oral hearing.
For more, head to THR.