Pharrell Williams has warned that the verdict in the $7.3 million "Blurred Lines" copyright case threatens the work of all musicians, designers, and artists. Williams said that subsequent copycat legislation could ruin the creative industry, as the ruling against himself and co-writer Robin Thicke appears to set a legal precedent. A federal court in Los Angeles found that "Blurred Lines" had copied not the melody or chords of Marvin Gaye's song "Got to Give It Up," but the 1977 hit's sound and feel.
"The verdict handicaps any creator out there who is making something that might be inspired by something else," Williams told the Financial Times in his first interview since the verdict. "This applies to fashion, music, design ... anything. If we lose our freedom to be inspired we’re going to look up one day and the entertainment industry as we know it will be frozen in litigation. This is about protecting the intellectual rights of people who have ideas."
"Blurred lines" has made $17m since 2013
Since "Blurred Lines" was released in the summer of 2013 the song has made nearly $17 million in profit. After the verdict, the Gaye family filed an injunction in an attempt to prevent its sale and distribution. An open letter from the family also accused Williams and Thicke of "deliberately undertaking" to infringe copyright, adding that while the pair "certainly have a right to be inspired by "Got to Give It Up" ... they did not have the right to use it without permission as a blueprint."
Pharrell, in his interview with the FT, denied that there had been any infringement at all. "You can’t own feelings and you can’t own emotions," he said. Producer Harvey Weinstein added that if it was legal to sue over creative work that "feels" like another, then artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein would never have existed. Williams himself did not comment on whether he or Thicke would be appealing the verdict, but said that: "Everything that’s around you in a room was inspired by something or someone ... If you kill that, there’s no creativity."