It was just a little over a month ago that a jury ruled Blurred Lines was too similar to Got to Give it Up with a $7.4 million verdict paid out by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to the Marvin Gaye Estate. But not so fast. While Thicke and Williams’ lawyers are seeking a new trial, the Gaye family is seeking injunction on further distribution of the song.
This past Friday, Thicke and Williams’ lawyers filed a motion for a new trial based on three reasons: (1) error in jury instructions, (2) improper testimony from a musicologist, and (3) insufficient evidence. The defense also claims the jury’s verdict is inconsistent because T.I. was not found liable for copyright infringement, yet he was featured in the song.
Let’s break it down.
In order to determine infringement, copyright should be based purely on the sheet music for Got to Give It Up. However, Robin Thicke made statements about how Gaye’s “groove” and “feel” influenced his song Blurred Lines. The argument stands that because the jury heard this statement, which is not part of the printed sheet music, it is “prejudicial and irrelevant” information. Additionally, musicologist Judith Finell’s testimony on the similarities between the two recordings was also “extremely prejudicial.” In effect, the jury’s decision-making abilities were influenced by such biased information and thus did not constitute a fair trial.
Another issue being confronted is that the $7.4 million verdict paid out to the Gaye family is double the profit that was even made from the song. The elements that were supposedly copied from Got to Give It Up amount to less than 5% of the Blurred Lines composition. This means that the money paid out should be dropped down to a whopping $680,000!
Following the motion for a new trial, the Gaye family also filed two of its own. The first: the Gaye family argues that Interscope, UMG, and other companies should be held accountable for copyright violations and are seeking declaratory relief. The second: they seek an injunction to stop distribution of the song and if the injunction doesn’t happen, the family is asking for over 50% of all future revenues! The latter is by far the best case scenario for the Gaye estate because it also means the pay out will be climbing much higher than $7.4 million.
Which way do you think the judge will go? Is a do-over warranted based on the above arguments? The judge will consider the above motions at a hearing scheduled on June 29, unless of course the two parties reach a settlement beforehand but I’m not so sure this will happen. Even if the judge does not grant a new trial, the case will head towards appeal. This is going to get interesting!