When Your Influences Come Back to Haunt You Part 1: The Blurred Lines Lawsuit Verdict and What It Could Mean For the Music Industry

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In 2012, Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and his stupid hat co-wrote a song called “Blurred Lines,” which was released as a single in 2013, and quickly became one of the best selling singles of all time despite its controversial lyrical subject matter.  I hate that song with a passion, and apparently the estate of Marvin Gaye does too, since Blurred Lines became the subject of a highly publicized copyright infringement lawsuit entitled Pharrell Williams v. Bridgeport Music, Inc. et al. in a California Federal Court.  On March 10, 2015, the jury in that lawsuit awarded Gaye’s estate $7.4 million in damages against Williams and Thicke, finding that Blurred Lines infringed on Marvin Gaye’s 1977 song “Got To Give it Up.”  While this obviously is not a dispute involving metal artists, the implications of this case are pretty far reaching, and the verdict currently has many songwriters in a state outrage on the internet.

The Claims At Issue Blurred Lines Lawsuit

The estate of Marvin Gaye owns the rights to the musical composition of Got To Give it Up.  This copyright extends to the actual musical notes of a song, and is a separate copyright from the copyright in the sound recording (i.e., the fixation of the sound on a tangible medium of expression like a tape or computer hard drive) or the copyright in the lyrics (which extends only to the words of the lyrics).  Interestingly, infringement claims based on musical compositions alone are usually difficult to prove, particularly because federal courts have long-recognized that “[s]imilarity of tone succession . . . is, to a certain degree inevitable in all musical compositions, because of the limits of the chromatic scale,” and that “originality in the realm of popular music lies within a very narrow scope.”  Hirsch v. Paramount Pictures 17 F.Supp. 816, 817 (S.D. Cal. 1937).

Williams and Thicke claimed that they did not have Got To Give It Up in mind when writing Blurred Lines, that they did not copy Got To Give It Up, and that Marvin Gaye’s estate was essentially seeking copyright protection over an entire genre of “Motown” music.  In fact, Thicke testified during his deposition that he was too high when he was in the studio to remember exactly how he contributed to the Blurred Lines songwriting process.

Since there is likely an impending injunction enjoining the sale and publication of Blurred Lines coming down from the Central District of California, I’m going to avoid linking to these songs here, and I’ll let you seek them out on your own if you are curious.  But any metal fan worth his salt who has listened to these songs knows that there have been rip offs in rock and metal music that would put the similarity between Blurred Lines and Got To Give It Up to shame.

So how the did the jury reach this result?

Well, I’m no tea leaf reader, and there was almost certainly some well-reasoned expert testimony for the jury to consider, but I’m willing to guess that their decision was swayed by statements Thicke previously made about the musical inspiration for Blurred Lines.

Thicke’s Thickheaded Interview With GQ Magazine

In May 2013, GQ Magazine published an interview with Thicke in which Thicke discussed Blurred Lines.  When GQ asked Thicke about the “origin story” behind Blurred Lines, Thicke stated that 1) Got To Give It Up was one of his favorite songs; and 2) he and Williams wrote Blurred Lines after Thicke suggested writing a song with the same “groove” as Got To Give It Up.

They call this a smoking gun in most circles.

Coupled with the fact that there were 5 women (who probably had some issues with the lyrical content of Blurred Lines) and 3 men on that jury, Thicke’s interview likely turned an otherwise winnable lawsuit into a $7.4  million judgment against Thicke and Williams.

So What Does This Mean?

At the end of the day, the Blurred Lines lawsuit is a landmark victory for rights holders, and a rather disturbing defeat for anyone in the business of writing or publishing music.

The entire history of rock and roll (and I’ll include metal within this overarching genre) has been premised on riffing on already established subject matter.  It is the cornerstone of the African American musical tradition that spawned jazz and blues music, which in turned gave rise to rock and roll, and which in turn gave rise to metal.  Every rock or metal musician stands upon the shoulders of someone, somewhere, who decided to include that “blue note” (the flat fifth in musical terms) within a pentatonic scale.  Much like the the “Mitochondrial Eve,” who is the common ancestor for all modern humans alive today, rock and metal musicians share their musical DNA with that first person to ever sing the blues–our “Pentatonical Eve,” if you will.

We don’t (at least most of us don’t) intentionally seek to copy other people’s songs.  Yet through the process of learning and evolving as musicians, borrowing from the music of others is both necessary and inexorable.   We hear something we like, we learn to play it as best we can, we learn a new way of looking at the guitar neck (or whatever your instrument of choice is), and we incorporate that style into the music we write.

Copyright law is inherently, yet understandably at odds with these notions.  It seeks to reward those who want to share their artistic contributions with the public by granting them certain exclusive rights, which is something that almost any working musician can agree with.  However, what is particularly problematic is that many elements of a song are not copyrightable in and of themselves.

You cannot own the copyright to musical key or scale, nor for a method of playing such as bending, sliding, tapping, or sweeping.  There are only 12 notes available to play in the chromatic scale, even fewer groups of notes/chords progressions that sound harmonically pleasing (assuming you don’t intend to skronk out), and only so many time signatures you can play in.  Unlike literary works, there is necessarily going to be some commonality in many songs, and particularly those songs with “pop” (verse/chorus) song structures.

But where is the line between the non-copyrightable and copyrightable elements of a song?  The practical answer is that there is none.  It’s analyzed on a case-by-case basis.  In other words, quite ironically, it is a “blurred line.”

If anything can be taken away from the Blurred Lines verdict, it is the notion that what you or others say about your music can determine what side of this blurred line the jury finds that you are on.  Put differently, this verdict tells us that artists should avoid discussing their influences, and certainly should not craft a song “paying homage” to another artist’s music either.  Historically, artists have been afforded a considerable amount of leeway in this regard.  In fact, there have been very few infringement lawsuits that go all the way to verdict, most of which settle out of court.  However, the Blurred Lines verdict may have just changed the game.

It has suddenly become riskier for bands, labels, and publishers to claim that a band’s music sounds like, or is influenced by another artist.  Now, you can either 1) avoid comparing yourself to other particular artists and risk losing out on potential fans who appreciate similar sounding music; or 2) continue to compare yourself to other artists, knowing that this could increase your potential risk of liability.

Furthermore, this verdict will undoubtedly embolden rights holders to pursue litigation against newer artists.  Can you think of a band or artist that has emerged in the last 20 years that hasn’t provided an interview about its “influences” that you can easily find through a Google search?  All of that information can be used against you in a lawsuit, or at the very least, as a veritable extortion tool in a cease and desist letter.

So what does this mean for your average metal musician? Probably not much.  Your music doesn’t make much money even assuming anyone listens to it, you’re likely insolvent, and you’re just not worth suing even if you have infringed.

What will be interesting is to see how this affects the industry at large going forward.  There are entire publishing companies with songwriters on staff who are employed for the express purpose of writing music in similar styles to particular songs that the publishing company cannot secure the licenses to.  There are also people in PR and A&R who make a living off of drawing parallels between their artists and other artists.  All of this could be affected if this lawsuit truly results in a paradigm shift in the industry.

Only time will tell how this will all play out, and I encourage you to express your thoughts in the comments section below, but the final question I will pose to you on this issue is as follows:

What rhymes with “hug me”?

Note:  This post has a lot of legalese, legal stuffs, and a few big words here and there, but you should not construe any of it as providing legal advice or a legal opinion.

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  • Edward/Breegrodamus

    This might go against the grain ’round here, but, I don’t think the lyrics to “Blurred Lines” are nearly as rapey as everyone made / makes them out to be.

    Great article, by the way, srs.

    • HessianHunter

      You’re kind of right, but the corresponding music video actually has much more rapey content than the lyrics do. In the context of that imagery, the lyrics become pretty gross. Without that music video, I doubt the controversy would really exist.

      • EsusMoose

        The most important thing is context. If a pop star sang some goregrind lyrics people would think they are deranged

        • Dagon

          There’s a reason goregrind vocals sound the way they do

      • Edward/Breegrodamus

        “You’re kind of right”.

        Yesterday Molenaar said “you aren’t too wrong (this time)”

        There is a real trend developing me saying shit that actually matters.

      • Guacamole Jim

        Which is odd, considering the video was directed by a woman, but the focus of the controversy is on Thicke, TI, and Williams.

        • Dr. Dubz

          I think, when creating art like that, it would be better to err on the side of not-rapey as opposed to rapey.

          • Agreed. But there’s always the implication

          • Dr. Dubz

            Joe, do you wanna go out on my boat with me?

          • Guacamole Jim

            Agreed. I just think it odd that the focus has been almost entirely on the “actors” in the video, not the director.

    • Dagon

      I agree, but I haven’t checked my privilege today, so I might be wrong.

      • Edward/Breegrodamus

        Check your privilege Fish God!

      • ChuggaChuggaDeedleyDoo

        Fish Privilege

  • Reposted Avenged Sevenfold Fan

    here’s sumtin for everyone…if your going to compare a band to an older band…don’t do it because every single band has influences duhh!!!

    as for the fucking assholes giving the shit…so what if you don’t like them. big fucking deal. you can say that they suck or whatever but please don’t condone your bullshit. give valid reasonings to why a certain band sucks….

    -the_other_kid, 4 Years Ago

    • CyberneticOrganism

      What are your feelings on slipknot?

      • Reposted Avenged Sevenfold Fan

        me and my bestfriend bayden love slipknot and a7x. my freinds top vavorite is a7x but im still having trouble which one to choose but if it camedown to it id say SLIPKNOT ALL THE WQAY BABY.OH YEAH!!!!!!

        -MASTEROFTECH, 8 months ago

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain
    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain
      • Tyreeling In The Years

        Tony Laureano is an animal on this album. Some of the best drumming I’ve ever heard.

        • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

          Did you notice my comparison, though? And yes Laureano is a god.

          • Tyreeling In The Years

            Oh wow! I do now. Total riff rip off.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            True.

      • Stanley

        I wonder if they mentioned Candlemass in the liner notes or if they claimed the writing credits for this. Hail Messiah!

        • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

          To my knowledge, no. People were a little upset at the time.

          • Stanley

            And so they should be. Especially Leif. Blatant rip off right there.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Yup, check out my other one, with Flower Travellin’ Band and Marduk. Blatant again.

          • Stanley

            Same riff.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Yup, precisely.

          • Dr. Dubz

            Didn’t Metallica say they ripped the machine gun riff in One off of a Venom song?

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Given my undying love for Venom, I can’t recall there being a part like that, unless I’m spacing something.

          • Dr. Dubz

            Hmm. Let me do some digging.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Let me know what you find, I’m a little interested.

          • Dr. Dubz

            Ah, this is from wikipedia:”I had been fiddling around with that B-G modulation for a long time. The idea for the opening came from a Venom song called “Buried Alive”. The kick drum machine-gun part near the end wasn’t written with the war lyrics in mind, it just came out that way. We started that album with Mike Clinkas producer. He didn’t work out so well, so we got Flemming to come over and save our asses.”

            My memory was off. I guess it was the opening riff.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Hmmmmm, interesting.

  • Tyreeling In The Years

    Drink beer. Make noise that no one cares about. Tour and don’t make money. Drink more beer. Play fast. Eat shitty fast food. Poop a lot. Be hungover a lot. Don’t change your clothes. Pass out. Do it again. And…

    Fuck this BRO with a razorblade dildo.

    • CyberneticOrganism

      *applause*

      • sweetooth0

        Good thing about grind is everybody pretty much acknowledges that they’re all stealing each others shit. I’m pretty sure Regurgitate straight up say it in their booklet “thanks to all the bands we stole riffs from, you know who you are”, and Stevo yells out the bands he’s “borrowed” from right in his songs (Master!). If grind starts getting litigious that’s when I stop listening.

        • Tyreeling In The Years

          It fucking grind dude. No fucks given. That’s why I love to play it.

        • Rubber Balls And Liquor

          Or County Medical Examiners, who are the first to admit they’re a Carcass tribute act.

          • sweetooth0

            Yup, and as close as we’ll ever get to Symphonies of Sickness Part 2 since Carcass has decided to continue to play tunes in the Heartwork style.

          • Tyreeling In The Years

            Pity.

            We need more General Surgery.

          • sweetooth0

            I love how my Olidous Operettas CD has a scratch and sniff label that is supposed to smell like rotten human flesh.

          • sweetooth0

            It stinks, but I’m not 100% sure what rotting human flesh smells like so I can’t confirm accuracy.

          • Your increased presence of late has been wonderful!

          • more beer

            If you ever smelled it you will never forget it. It stays with you forever.

          • sweetooth0

            That is what I’ve heard. One of my coworkers has a daughter who is going through mortuary training and we’ve gotten some pretty “juicy” stories at the lunch table about some of the decomposing cadavers she’s had to clean up

          • more beer

            What you heard is true. I smelled it when I was in the service and will never forget that smell. I`ve been out for a long time too.

    • I shall embroider, frame, and hang this creed in my room of living.

    • more beer

      Everything is okay as long as you have beer!

    • Rubber Balls And Liquor
      • I think this is one of the few movies where Morgan Freeman actually uttered a curse word.

        • Tyree

          Gone Baby Gone too.

  • Rubber Balls And Liquor

    Those feet need some tough actin’ Tinactin, pronto!

    • FeelTheDarknesses

      Maybe he likes those kinds of things

  • FeelTheDarknesses

    Marvin Gaye is better than most things.
    Those wanks should just give Marvin’s family money just for giving birth to Marvin and his greatness.

    • Rubber Balls And Liquor

      Ummmmmmmmm, so what about his dad blowing his brains out after giving birth to him?

      • FeelTheDarknesses

        Yeah that sucks

      • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

        Fuck his dad with a giant cactus.

    • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

      He sure is. Also make sure his dad gets none of the money because that bastard killed him.

      • Might be a little difficult for him to claim any cash. He died like 20 years ago.

        • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

          His dad died?

  • CyberneticOrganism

    Seriously detailed writeup here, well done. I get that this is a potentially hazardous ruling for music in general, but put me on the side of “fuck these guys” because the song is clearly a ripoff. Write your own fucking music for fuck’s sake. Fuck.

    • I can’t help but think these buttholes brought it upon themselves by preemptively suing the Gaye estate.

      • CyberneticOrganism

        Pictured: a butthole

      • EsusMoose

        I’d like to think there’s less implications here and more the case of some idiots saying and doing the wrong things. But I’m probably wrong here

      • JVVG

        Yeah. If anything that was a massive red flag, showing little confidence that they wouldn’t counter-sue.

        Whoever advised [whichever one launched the suit] clearly didn’t think through the probability they’d lose having brought it to the family’s attention.

        • ChuggaChuggaDeedleyDoo

          They were seeking what’s called “declaratory relief” after Marvin Gaye’s estate made comments about how they thought Blurred Lines infringed on Gaye’s music. This relief doesn’t seek money, but they were seeking a declaration from the court that they didn’t infringe.

          The advantage of doing this is that you get to pick your forum (this probably could have been brought in Federal Courts elsewhere in the country), and their lawyers probably thought a Los Angeles jury pool would naturally be inclined to be more attuned to popular music.

          The disadvantage is that is tends to detract from the chances of resolving it out of court, which is usually the more prudent business decision. Bullish lawyering can work when your adversary cannot afford to litigate, but it isn’t always a great idea in these high profile cases.

      • ChuggaChuggaDeedleyDoo

        ^ding ding ding ding.

  • nbm02ss
    • HessianHunter

      It’s a bit different because Sam Smith immediately recognized the similarity when it was brought up to him by Petty, and he readily listed him as a songwriter. I had never heard the Petty song before this happened, so I fully believe that a British dude my age also hadn’t heard it and that it was a complete chance event, as Smith claims.

      • CyberneticOrganism

        I think that excuse is utter horseshit. He got caught and took the high road by giving Petty credit, but it’s clearly a ripoff.

        • HessianHunter

          It’s obviously totally possible Smith had heard Won’t Back Down and either intentionally or unintentionally ripped off the melody.

          However, the dude is 23 years old and British. I am 26, American, an active listener of music, and had never heard the Tom Petty song before it was compared to Stay With Me. It seems totally possible, even probable, to me that a dude even younger than me who doesn’t even share a country with Tom Petty would also have never heard that song.

          • It is crazy to me that you’ve never heard that song. Srs.

          • HessianHunter

            Dunno what to say. I guess I am unintentionally pretty successful at avoiding pop culture. I sometimes don’t hear about movies until the sequel is already out.

          • Regardless, Tom Petty is a massive, massive artist (also he voiced “Lucky” on King of the Hill so he is a national treasure). It is a little absurd that nowhere in the process of writing that song, recording it, and releasing it through a major label none of the players stopped and said “Y’know, that melody is REALLY familiar.”

          • RustyShackleford
          • DARKBEARD

            As a 28/m in America, I find it baffling that anyone hasn’t heard that song if they’re anywhere close to my age.

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            I’ve never heard it as i refuse to listen to it.

          • DARKBEARD

            I actually like tom petty. Makes cocaine look cool.

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            I was talking about Blurred Lines. I like Tom Petty

          • HessianHunter

            Although the notes are the same, the vibe and feel is TOTALLY different. When someone said the songs were similar, I had to sing them both to myself to even tell the melodies were nearly identical. I don’t easily imagine the Petty song inspiring the Smith song.

    • Tom Petty has the worse voice in the world.

      GL

      • nbm02ss

        I’m sure there are worse, but I’m hard pressed to think of any at the moment.

        • I would almost rather listen to a modern country artist than Tom Petty. Almost.

  • Also, great write up my friend. There was definitely some serious thought that went into this article.

    Also, also, I wanted to pass along a radio show that I happen to like quite a bit: On Point with Tom Ashbrook. I listen to it on the local NPR station when driving between job sites. I can honestly say that it is the greatest talk show I have ever heard. They are very concise, conistent, and “on point”. They have people come in and talk about current news events and other topics that have nothing to do with the news. You can listen to it online at onpoint.wbur.org. I assume some of you will likely not care too much about the recommendation – but – for those who enjoy listening to podcasts the show is likely a daily/live podcast. Anyway, thanks.

    GL

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain
    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain
      • Tyreeling In The Years

        Holy shit man.

        • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

          Yup, and I have checked. Sole credits are Marduk, more specifically Morgan.

          • Tyreeling In The Years

            The whole fucking song pretty much is structured the same.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Yup. Pretty lame.

    • Enemy Of The Free World

      By posting this you became my hero. I think I have the original pressing vinyl LP somewhere.

  • HessianHunter

    This is a fascinating topic and a great read. Thank you.

  • Rubber Balls And Liquor

    Imagine how much AC/DC would get if they sued Airbourne!

    • more beer

      AC/DC could sue themselves since they have put out the same album over and over again. Seems like plagiarism to me.

      • Rubber Balls And Liquor

        Kinda like how John Fogerty got sued over his own songs?

        • more beer

          Exactly.

    • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

      If ACDC sued every band that sounded like them they would bankrupt every country except Finland.

    • Tyreeling In The Years
  • Dr. Dubz

    This was a fantastic article. More highbrow analysis!

    Also, watch out, A7X!

    • ChuggaChuggaDeedleyDoo

      Highbrow analysis is how we do.

    • The law firm of Hetfield, Hammett & Ulrich, LLC should make it happen.

      • ChuggaChuggaDeedleyDoo

        If Lars lawyered like he played drums, his malpractice insurance premiums would be through the roof.

  • Dagon

    But you’re a good girl…

  • Dagon

    The interview was definitely what sold them as guilty. If he really phrased it like “write a song with the same groove” that was the nail on the coffin.

    The lesson here is: only Bolt Thrower worship is real. Only Bolt Thrower worship is life.
    https://youtu.be/rsX91Kez-Tk

  • nbm02ss

    I’m not familiar with Rob Thicke, but that dude has a very punchable mug.

    • Formerly Known As Oli Sykes

      His name refers to his mental capacity.

  • DARKBEARD

    I’m gonna have to write an article with the same tone as this one, for he is one of my greatest influences

  • On one hand, this could mean Meshuggah could sue every derivative, shitty ‘core band using an 8-string.
    On the other hand, this could mean Kerry “Burger” King could sue everyone who plays fast, minor-key riffs.

    • Max

      Extending the precedent a bit, it might also mean that since Mick Harris coined the term “grindcore” and claims to have essentially “invented” that genre, he could sue anybody who claims to be a grind band.

      • I would like to think a member of Napalm Death wouldn’t be the litigious type.

  • DARKBEARD

    Country artists will have a field day
    http://www.youtube.com/embed/LD3DY7z-I8o?autoplay=1

    • OHHHHHH WHENT ON DOWN TO THE WATERING HOLE. I BROUGHT MY DAWG AND MY FERSHING POLE. I THOUGHT ABOUT MY GUUURRL I LEFT ALONE THAT NIGHT AT THE CARNIVAL. SHE WAS REAL FINE IN THOSE BLUE SHORTS, HER HAIR WAS LIKE A FIRE IN THE RAIN. REAL HAWT REAL SMOKIN’ WHAT A BLOODY SHAME. SHE HAD A DAWG TOO, BUT HE DIED IN A HUNTING ACCIDENT, OH WHAT A SHAME.

      BUT I – WWWEEEEEEENNNTTTT BACK TO HER! AND WE SSPPEEEEEEEENNTTT THE NICE WALKING THROUGH THE GRASS WITHOUT SHOES CUZ ‘MURICA. AND WE, EEEEEEEEENNNNDED UP GETTING MARRIED AND GETTING A SECOND DAWG. MAN, HARD NOT LOVE MY FERSHING POLE. BLEEEEEEEEEEH.

      WE BOTH HAD TWO TRUCKS AND NOW WE HAVE FOUR. THEY ARE ALL CHEVYS WITH BENT IN DOORS. BUT HEY, WE HAVE HAY IN THE BACK OF THEM SO WE CAN LAY IN THE BACK ON OUR BACKS AND WATCH THE STARS. STARS ARE FROM HEAVEN THEY ARE NOT FIREBALLS, OUR DAWG IS BARKING AT THE COONS. HEY STOP THAT DAWGY. BLEEEEEEEEEHHH

      BUT WE – WEEEEEEEEENNTT DOWN TO THE CREEK AND MUUUUUUUUUUUDDED ALL AFTERNOON AND DRANK A DOZEN BEERS AND SHOT A BUNCH GUNS CUZ ‘MURICA. AND WE, EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENNNNDED UP GETTING STUCK IN ANKLE HIGH BOOTS IN 12 INCHES OF MUCK. IT MUST BE LOVE. WHITE T-SHIRTS. BLEEEEEH.

      GL

    • Maik Beninton

      OMG.
      Have they made this for pop songs?

  • Amazingly written article. To me, copyright has always been a double edged sword. While it is nice to be able to ensure that something you created can’t be ripped off by an unoriginal douche, it also makes it so that a lot of creative people end up getting fucked because someone put a copyright on an idea just to crush competition. A recent example would be Bethesda attempting to sue anyone who puts the words “scrolls” or “fallout” in their video game titles.

  • Stanley

    Great article.

    “But where is the line between the non-copyrightable and copyrightable elements of a song? The practical answer is that there is none. It’s analyzed on a case-by-case basis. In other words, quite ironically, it is a “blurred line.””

    Nice!

  • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

    I hate this song more than most current music. Fuck Robin Thicke and Pharrell with giant cacti.

  • Guacamole Jim

    The point of music is that it grows on the shoulders of its predecessors. Western music would be vastly different today without the innovations of Bach (for example). We can even see that when analysing different world musics. I don’t think that even the most cutting edge musicians of all time were devoid of influence, a musical spark that triggered their own progression. Music ought to wear this badge proudly, to not be so arrogant as to pretend it is original and new. While it evolves, and newness is constantly being injected into it, there are centuries of musical tradition providing a framework for that music to exist. Did Marvin Gaye come up with the chromatic scale? Did he come up with backbeat? Did he come up with anything that he used in that song besides a tiny bit of original input into a long-standing musical tradition? No. But it was that small spark that made his composition his, and not just a rip-off.

    Is Blurred Lines wearing its influences on its sleeve? Clearly. But are the two songs the same? Not at all. In the same way that Gaye was steeped in the music of his time (motown and funk, both clearly evident in the style of his composition), Williams and Thicke are steeped in the way musical culture has moved on since that time. There are a huge number of differences between the two songs, enough for me to confidently believe that “Blurred Lines,” regardless of its controversy, did not rip off Marvin Gaye. The lawsuit and its verdict serves only to show the state’s control of art and artists, something art has fought against for (probably) as long as it has existed.

  • Dr. Dubz

    On point with our discussion today, I think Imperial Triumphant drew some inspiration from High on Fire.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzYCGffMxsk

  • JVVG

    I think it’s also worth pointing out that Thicke and Williams’ lawyer told the press that (paraphrased because I forget his exact words) this could put a chilling effect on creativity when that creativity takes too much liberty with its influences, not because he believes, but rather because it’s a fundamental rationale for his inevitable appeal – whether valid or not. He’s only paid to prove it, not to believe it.

    Not to mention that getting the court of public opinion thinking about that will only help indirectly sway the appeal. It’s basically legal jury-tampering.

    • ChuggaChuggaDeedleyDoo

      Public opinion might sway a jury, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals generally gives zero fucks about public opinion. If there are any legitimate grounds for appeal here, all bets are off if this gets in the hands of the 9th Circuit. It makes whacky rulings all the time.

      • Y’know, it almost sounds like you know a thing or two about law.

        • ChuggaChuggaDeedleyDoo

          I owe that largely to Better Call Saul

      • JVVG

        Point taken – although it doesn’t affect the larger statement. Their lawyer is setting up precedent for the appeal just by saying it to the media. Doesn’t matter at all if he believes it personally.

        The process of appeals in Canada is similar, in that neither Provincial nor Federal Courts of Appeal have juries. Except that they kind of do, they just happen to be a ‘jury’ of current judges rendering a verdict for one Chief Justice.
        – The Federal Court has 12+1
        – B.C. Appeals Court, for instance, has 14+1

  • Rubber Balls And Liquor

    I’m a descendent of the first caveman ever to bang things together and make a rhythm. I’ll see everyone on earth in court!

    • JVVG

      Inevitable result: Everyone v. Everyone

      • Rubber Balls And Liquor

        Nope, just me, versus the world. I’d celebrate, but if I play a song, someone would have a countersuit.

      • Hordes of chaos!

  • Tyreeling In The Years

    There is nothing more entertaining then watching Mites hockey.

    http://www.gifbin.com/bin/032015/1426062961_referee_carries_goalie_across_field.gif

    • what a trooper!

      • Tyreeling In The Years

        All I can think about is the game in South Park where the Detroit Red Wings crush those little guys.

      • Dr. Dubz

        Mutton Bustin’ is one of my favorite things in the world. It’s the main reason I’ll go to a rodeo.

        • If I ever have a kid, you’d better believe I’m going to make him try to ride a pissed off sheep.

      • Tyreeling In The Years

        That looks like good drunken fun.

      • wouldnotletmyfuturedaughtersdothat/100

        • Would force my children to become professionals in/10
          like those dance moms.

          • Professional dance mom? Sounds riveting

          • more beer

            Plus your kids would be able to kick the shit out of the dance kids.It takes a tough kid to get tossed off of and trample by a pissed off sheep.

      • more beer

        I can`t believe that`s even legal in this day and age. I`m all for it at least these kids won`t grow up to be pussy`s. It`s just surprising the nanny state has put a stop to it.

    • more beer

      You gotta love when the goalie pulls himself.

  • Interesting read. The only was I could see this effecting extreme music is that if band comes out and is comparable to Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax et al, making huge profits then one of those artists might exploit that so they get a piece. They have the legal backing to do so and will exercise it if they are feeling greedy or slighted.

    • Rubber Balls And Liquor

      Slayer would make quick work of Evile, that’s for sure!

  • Rubber Balls And Liquor

    Hell, Killing Joke and The Pixies haven’t seen one red cent of royalties from Nirvana, and Kurt himself admitted to flat out ripping of several of their songs.

    • Edward/Breegrodamus

      “Smells Like Teen Spirit” aka one of the biggest pop hits of all time, was designed to be a Pixies track.

      For the record I think it’s a great song.

      • Rubber Balls And Liquor

        “Come As You Are” was openly lifted from Killing Joke’s ‘Eighties’.

        • Edward/Breegrodamus

          I have heard “Come As You Are” (as a friend, as I want you to be) a million times but will have to check out that Killing Joke track. This site always gives me a lot of homework (which I rarely accomplish in its entirety!).

  • Psyched for the inevitable circle of lawsuits from swoop-haired, breakdown playing, trendy metalcore fuckbags.

    • Try not to hold back next time. Just let it all out!

      • “But your honor, they play dun-dun-dun dun dun dun-dun dun, and we play dun-dun dun-dun-dun dun dun. They’re totally different.”

        • Judge: “With the evidence provided….I think we are dun here”
          Lawyer: *facepalm*

  • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

    To celebrate Marvin Gaye’s victory I’m listening to What’s Going On. It’s probably the only album that makes me cry like a baby not only because of how powerful it is but because of how tragic the album is and how tragic his life was.

    • Rubber Balls And Liquor

      My fave is Ego Trippin’.

    • Dr. Dubz

      I thought WASP made you cry.

  • YourLogicIsFlushed

    Quick! Someone find me the first person to play a blast beat! I will become a lawyer and he will be my only client! $$$$

    • Billy Joel, I believe. Srs

    • Edward/Breegrodamus

      I think today we have established that no one that plays blast beats has any money, lol

      • Tyreeling In The Years

        Hahahaha

      • more beer

        It would have to be like a reverse class action suit. Where the first one sues everyone who copied it. Rather than a bunch of people suing one person or entity.

      • CT-12

        Gene Hoglan is probably sitting on a good chunk of change, I would imagine.

    • Rubber Balls And Liquor

      Probably a long dead jazz musician hopped on meth who beat the fuck out of his drums, but was too high and pissed off to record it.

  • Thug brie.

  • JVVG

    Also. Is there a deeper meaning to the fact that the ‘related article’ is the Weird Al review? Or just the fact that it parodied Blurred Lines?

    I thought Parody was explicitly separated from this sort of lawsuit by prior enshrinement of ‘Fair Use’ by Supreme Court decision. Wouldn’t that extend around to the Gaye estate’s won decision automatically?

    • The related articles are done automatically by WordPress by analyzing tags and categories to find relevant matches.

      • JVVG

        So it is more just the parody’s specific subject matter.

        Pity. I thought I had found an intelligent discussion fork with which to run.

        • Dr. Dubz

          I wouldn’t recommend running with forks.

          • JVVG

            Definitely. You might fork yourself.

  • Rubber Balls And Liquor

    Tom Waits can now sue every death metal vocalist for ripping him off! And whoever did Cobra Commander’s voice on the old GI Joe cartoons has a case against every last black metal vocalist!

  • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    here’s a new song that i wrote
    ===

    “beatin motherfuckers,like ike beat tina”

    here’s biggie smalls “machine gun funk”–with the music of “bridge over troubled water”

    9both at once–full vol

    https://youtu.be/aF4pxvZMh20

    https://youtu.be/H_a46WJ1viA

  • nbm02ss

    I’m sad that Jeff Buckley is no longer alive to sue the shit out of Coldplay.

    • Rubber Balls And Liquor

      I’m sad he’s not alive, period. If anything, Coldplay ripped off Doves and Travis BIG TIME.

  • Coolstorybro

    Great analysis, but this issue has been going on for some time now. New artists pretty regularly settle out-of-court for infringing on earlier songs: Sam Smith settled for copying Tom Petty, while Coldplay settled for copying Joe Satriani. The bigger problem in my opinion is for artists who set out, like Timbaland and Thicke did here, to make a song with the same “groove” as a previous song. Especially in R&B/Funk circles, the groove may be 90% of the song. It will be interesting to see how the industry in general reacts to these developments, but for people who don’t write songs by saying, “hmmm…I want to copy George Clinton today,” this ruling isn’t going to have any measurable impact.

  • Rho Stone

    I like blurred lines more than the marvin gaye song, but I’d rather listen to Stoned Jesus instead.

  • Max

    Very informative and well-written article.

    There are plenty of artists on Bandcamp and Soundcloud who charge no money to download their music. If they’d never intentionally made a cent out of their published recordings, I wonder if they could be considered exempt from a liability like this?

    In my own dabblings as a listener and musician, I’ve also often wondered if a lot of these risks could be headed off by initiating outright “purchase” of a musical motif. Right now, for example, I’m listening to “The Cliff” by Pelican incessantly, because I’m finding the main riff to be a real hook. I wouldn’t even mind writing my own song out of that riff – which I suppose is sort of the equivalent of, say, hip-hop DJs sampling Led Zeppelin.

    I would be probably be playing the riff in a different tuning, obviously with a different guitar sound, and naturally in a different and much-developed artistic context (with progressions from and variations upon that riff, etc.). But there would be no denying that it wasn’t my riff; because I didn’t come up with it and have consciously decided to borrow it – and would never have heard it would I not have specifically listened to “The Cliff” by Pelican.

    So I wonder: In that case, how open would Pelican be to letting me literally buy the riff from them? It wouldn’t imply stipulating that Pelican themselves could no longer play or profit from their song; simply that I could purchase permission to use it in my own composition as I see fit without the risk of getting sued later or having to share any of my own profits with Pelican (or perhaps that would be negotiated into the purchase).

    I guess this isn’t any different to getting legal pre-clearance for sample usage, but I’ve never come across a case of it in the rock or metal worlds. There is so much more stock put into “authenticity” and “organic” modes of music-making in the rock band format that nobody ever seems willing to come out and admit “I explicitly ripped this off” even though, to any keen listener, it’s blatantly obvious that there’s probably even less “originality” in the currents of punk and heavy metal than there is in a genre that barely uses acoustic/electric instruments like urban / R’n’B.

    For example, my own drumming style is a pretty blatant rip-off of Dave Lombardo. I’m not identical to him (I’ll never be as good as him for starters), but most of the rhythms and fills I play, whenever playing metal somewhere within the tempo range that Lombardo played on the Slayer records, could almost have been copied and pasted from those records. It’s obvious enough that one or two people hearing my playing have identified it in the past. I plead guilty; I have not a hint of originality in what I do as a drummer and have never aspired to. If anybody should be getting sued, it’s me, by David Lombardo.

    And yet, Dave Lombardo can’t sue me, even if I did publish music. Because firstly, he’s not credited as a songwriter on the records (which is unfair given that he clearly DID contribute; can you imagine the classic Slayer records being half as significant if it were Lars Ulrich on drums instead? In fact, they would have had to write different songs to account for different percussion capabilities). And secondly, because all the courts seem to care about is combinations of tonal interval in a given time signature, or lyrical plagiarism.

    Anyway, I wonder if Bathory flew under the radar by buying this riff from the notoriously litigious Metallica? (riff starts at 5:46)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eebjasQGaE0

    (Then refer to outro riff of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” at 4:12)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bg92QpjRcJk