CMU School of Drama

Thursday, April 27, 2017

"Blurred Lines" Appeal Brief Says Artists Can't Copyright a Groove

Hollywood Reporter: Lines have been drawn in the copyright battle between Marvin Gaye's heirs and artists Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke — and they certainly aren't blurred.

Since Williams and Thicke appealed their 2015 trial loss, in which a jury found their "Blurred Lines" infringed upon Gaye's "Got to Give It Up," scores of musicians and songwriters have pledged their support to one side or the other.

8 comments:

Galen shila said...

Despite the fact that blurred lines has lots of other problems, i am always get angry when i read about people trying to copyright stupid stuff. Now i understand the importance of copyrighting and i believe in intellectual property rights. But wanting to copyright a certain groove is just idiotic. Not only that but it is incredibly pretentious. One could argue that blurred lines took their groove from seventies funk bands. I find when one song gets very popular a lot of songs mimic the style. But that is just a part of the business. The use of samples and beats is widely used without issue. It is a matter of making it your own and individualizing it. overall i think that this lawsuit is just stupid. both a waist of time and money. It just gives me another reason to hate the song blurred lines and the people whoa re behind writing it, producing it, and suing over it.

John Yoerger said...

Okay so we can, of course, also connect this with the case where the one company sued another company over the cheerleader uniform. And since you can apparently consider a single letter with some blue flourish on a green shirt a copyrightable idea, then I guess you can also consider a 'groove' something you can copyright. I was surprised to see in reviewing the case briefing that they didn't also cite that case because it would have made for an excellent example, even more so a modern one, where a company has been allowed to protect material assets that are fairly generic. At this point, I'm surprised someone hasn't tried to claim copyright of the stop sign. The copyright game is rapidly changing and while I am in favor of the ability for original works to be credited, I am unsure of the climate this will create among artists and designers everywhere.

Ali Whyte said...

I always cringe a little when I read titles like this because, in my opinion, the whole copyrighting issue has gone a little too far. I would have to disagree with John as to the cheerleading uniforms, however, as they are often logos and basically another form of marketing for the team of school for which the cheerleaders support. I understand how that should have a right to be protected, but a "groove" and especially a "feeling" is definitely more than a little vague. I cannot even imagine how one would go about copyrighting a feeling, much less the chaos would ensue due to the lack of specificity. I think this climate of constant copyrighting is actually detrimental to the artistic community as a whole as it limits people's ability to draw from and build upon existing work. I am not saying in any way that all copyrighting is bad or should be abolished, but I do think some clearer lines need to be drawn as to what can and cannot be copyrighted in the first place.

Simone Schneeberg said...

I listened to the two songs and they are so not even remotely similar. It is clear you can see the influence from the Marvin Gaye song in the background of "Blurred Lines," but it doesn't even seem to come close to copying it. I think things like this sort of delegitimizes what was supposed to be a way to protect artists' and innovators' ideas. There could be a case where this is actually an issue, but the ruling from this case where it really wasn't may now negatively impact a case of clear thievery because now you can just call it a "groove" or a "feeling" and how the hell do you define that. Copyrighting is getting out of hand in my opinion, the number of things you can patent is frankly terrifying. You can patent genes (at this point only synthetic sequences but it took a ruling to invalidate patents on human genes). At what point does this ruin out capability for creativity and innovative progress? It appears that if we continue this way, finding inspiration becomes a crime.

Emma Reichard said...

So right now I’m going to ignore that this article relates to a horrible song (about date rape mind you) and it’s horrible artists (a known misogynist) because I really don’t feel like ranting right now. Also because this case relates to a larger issue at hand, which is how to legislate music and art as intellectual property. This case is very interesting because it deals with not only summary decisions, but also where exactly one can draw the line between the tangible elements of music and the emotional ones. In terms of the lack of a summary division in this case, I can sort of understand why a judge would call for a trial. Having two music experts on opposing sides, and then determining right then and there if there’s evidence enough for a trial is basically implying you know more about music than the experts. And I’d be willing to bet most judges don’t feel they know enough about music to consider themselves experts. I’ll be interested to hear how exactly this appeal plays out.

Megan Jones said...

As much as I think that Robin Thicke is a garbage person and Blurred Lines is a garbage song I have to side with him in this case. Personally I think it's a little sleazy to take part of someone else's song, but making it illegal could have repercussions for the music industry as a whole. It seems like this judgement of not being able to reuse a part of a song could be a slippery slope to smaller artists being crushed for music that just happens to sound similar to a bigger artist. I'm also curious to see how this will affect sampling in music, because that's something that most people will implement into their songs these days. Recently Ed Sheeran came under fire because people believed that the rhythm and overall musical pattern of his song "Shape of You" was too similar to TLC's song "No Scrubs" so he simply gave them partial writing credits for the song. Obviously this solution won't work in all cases, but I do think that restricting music through copyright has the potential to be dangerous.

Alex Talbot said...

Putting aside that Robin Thicke is garbage, and that song is disgusting, there is a lot of merit to his side of the case. I haven't personally compared the two songs, but from what I understand from this case, they are similar only in sound and not actual composition. Music in general is very hard to copyright, since unlike text, there is something slightly intangible about music--the style and the feel of the track, and it is questionable whether or not this should be able to be copyrighted. And with the idea of sampling, especially in electronic and hip hop music, this line becomes all the more "blurred" (excuse my pun.) In general, music and copyrighting is difficult because music pulls inspiration from other music--throughout history music genres have risen from the evolution of others, and with the rise of copyrighting it is hard to decide where to draw the line between inspiration and straight copying. While I have little respect for Robin Thicke, I have to take his side here, and I think in general this is a very interesting case.

Sarah Battaglia said...

I hate to say it but I completely agree with this article. When this lawsuit came out I thought a lot about where I stood and I decided that I just didn't care that much. We have been creating music and art since the beginning of people and there are only so many keys on a piano and beats in a measure so sometimes things are going to sound similar or the same even if the artist has no intention of that and I really believe that unless it is an actual copy we just have to let it go. Blurred Lines is a good song (even though if you listen to the lyrics it is about forcing someone to have sex) but the beat behind is pretty generic and thats okay. People have used something like it before. They will do it again. I think we just have to relax sometimes and let people make what they make before turning everything into a law suit.