Having returned from a hiatus that included hosting friends and attending my youngest brother’s wedding, I realized that my blog’s tag line has promised pop culture ephemera that I have failed to deliver. Fortunately, sometimes pop culture and the law collide in entertaining fashion:
In order to shield “Blurred Lines,” the hottest hit of the summer, Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris Jr. are going to court.
A lawsuit was filed Thursday in California federal court by the trio against Marvin Gaye‘s family and Bridgeport Music, which owns some of Funkadelic’s compositions. At issue are complaints about similarities between “Blurred Lines” and at least two songs….
The suit claims the Gaye family is alleging that “Blurred Lines” and Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” “feel” or “sound” the same, and that the “Gaye defendants are claiming ownership of an entire genre, as opposed to a specific work.”
As for Funkadelic, there’s said to be claimed similarity between Thicke’s hit and Funakedlic’s “Sexy Ways.”
“But there are no similarities between plaintiffs’ composition and those the claimants allege they own, other than commonplace musical elements,” states the lawsuit. “Plaintiffs created a hit and did it without copying anyone else’s composition.”
So what we have here is preemptive litigation. Rather than wait for the Gaye family and Bridgeport Music to sue, Thicke has beaten them to the courtroom, in the hope of receiving an authoritative statement that “Blurred Lines” has not infringed any copyrights.
I might not be an expert on copyright law, but I know more than a few things about Funkadelic, and I must confess that I can’t hear any of “Sexy Ways” in “Blurred Lines.” And someone who knows much more about Funkadelic than I do agrees:
George Clinton, who once led Funkadelic and has feuded with Bridgeport and its leader over the years, tweets, “No sample of #Funkadelic‘s ‘Sexy Ways’ in @robinthicke‘s ‘Blurred Lines’ – yet Armen Boladian thinks so? We support @robinthicke@Pharrell!”
The Marvin Gaye song strikes me as more problematic. There’s nothing as derivative as what Vanilla Ice did to Queen’s “Under Pressure,” but while I wouldn’t say that the Gaye family clearly has a winning case, it can take some pride in how many listeners hear this song and associate it with this song. Your thoughts on the relationship between the two songs?