Marvin Gaye’s tragic and untimely passing failed to spare him from the wrath of copyright theft, it has emerged,
The family of the late soul legend are attempting to halt sales of the Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke hit Blurred Lines after a jury ruled they had copied one of his tracks.
A Los Angeles court awarded $7.3m, around £4.8m, in damages to relatives following jurors’ decision that the 2013 single had breached the copyright of Gaye’s 1977 hit Got To Give It Up.
The lawyer representing Gaye’s children Nona, Frankie and Marvin Gaye III, who inherited rights to their father’s music following his death in 1984, yesterday told the Rolling Stone magazine he was seeking to remove the record from the shelves and download sites.
But music critics have lambasted the decision, warning it sets a dangerous precedent for the future.
“We’ll be asking the court to enter an injunction prohibiting the further sale and distribution unless we reach an agreement with those guys on the other side about how future monies that are received will be shared,” attorney Richard Busch said.
The family launched legal action shortly after Blurred Lines became a global smash two years ago.
It made $16m profit, with Thicke pocketing around $5m from sales.
He and his collaborator have both repeatedly denied copying Gaye.
Williams had told jurors that Gaye’s music was “part of the soundtrack of his youth”, but insisted it was not on his mind when he penned Blurred Lines.
Thicke said he had “little to do” with the writing, but in 2013 he told GQ magazine Got to Give it Up was one of his favourite tracks.
Howard E King, the pair’s lawyer, had accused the Gaye family of “claiming ownership of an entire genre, as opposed to a specific work,” ahead of the trial.
But Nona broke down in tears following a unanimous verdict in her favour.
“Right now, I feel free,” she told reporters outside the court.
“Free from Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke’s chains and what they tried to keep on us and the lies that were told.”
It is thought there will be an attempt to appeal against the decision.
“While we respect the judicial process, we are extremely disappointed in the ruling made today, which sets a horrible precedent for music and creativity going forward,” said Mr King.
“We are reviewing the decision, considering our options and you will hear more from us soon about this matter.”
Meanwhile music industry experts have criticised the judgement.
Critic Dorian Lynskey describing it as “disaster” on Twitter, adding that it is “ignorant, reactionary and dangerous”.
Accusations of copying were not the single controversy surrounding the single, which also featured the rapper T.I.
Its lyrics and video, which featured near-naked models, became the subject of a sexism row, with many critics labelling it a ‘rape anthem’. The University of Leeds’ students union was among a number of UK institutions to ban the playing of the song in its venues.
WHERE AN homage ends and copyright begins has been something of a blurred line throughout the history of the charts.
Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams have joined a host of stars who have been accused of stealing other artists’ material.
Grammy award-winning Brit Sam Smith was recently forced to defend claims that his melody Stay With Me ripped off the chorus of Tom Petty’s chorus in I Won’t Back Down.
And this year the Rolling Stones’ ex-manager successfully sued The Verve for using a sample of on their 1997 song Bittersweet Symphony.
The band had a licence to use a five-note sample from an orchestral version of the Stones’ The Last Time, but Allen Klein argued they used a larger portion of the music than was agreed.
The band disputed this but eventually settled out of court and handed over 100% of their royalties, which seemed cheaper to them than fighting it out in court.