Here’s a weird one. Robin Thicke’s monster summer hit “Blurred Lines” owes some obvious debt to older songs. In particular, Marvin Gaye’s almighty “Got To Give It Up” stands as a predecessor — the weird little percussion accents, the falsetto, the general sense of horniness. And sure, you could probably draw a lineage between the guitar-squiggles on Funkadelic’s “Sexy Ways” and the ones on “Blurred Lines.” I’m not a lawyer — and our resident lawyer just wrote his goodbye post — but those similarities don’t seem legally actionable; they just seem like musical influences. But apparently, the people who own the rights to those songs have been making noises about suing Robin Thicke. And so now Thicke — as well as T.I. and Pharrell, the other two guys on the song — are suing those rights holders, just to keep another lawsuit from happening. Make sense? No?
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the “Blurred Lines people filed a lawsuit yesterday in California’s Federal Court against Gaye’s family and Funkadelic rights-holders Bridgeport Music. In the lawsuit, the “Blurred Lines” guys are looking for a declaration that “Blurred Lines” doesn’t violate the other parties’ rights and that “Gayes do not have an interest in the copyright to the composition ’Got to Give It Up’ sufficient to confer standing on them to pursue claims of infringement of that composition.”
Here’s what Thicke’s lawyers write: “Plaintiffs, who have the utmost respect for and admiration of Marvin Gaye, Funkadelic and their musical legacies, reluctantly file this action in the face of multiple adverse claims from alleged successors in interest to those artists. Defendants continue to insist that plaintiffs’ massively successful composition, ’Blurred Lines,’ copies ’their’ compositions… Gaye defendants are claiming ownership of an entire genre, as opposed to a specific work.”
For his part, Funkadelic leader George Clinton, no fan of Bridgeport Music, has said on Twitter that “Blurred Lines” doesn’t rip off “Sexy Ways,” and you’d think he’d be an authority on that.
Still, don’t you have to wait for the Gayes to sue before you countersue? Isn’t that how it works? I’m so confused.