More than 200 musicians have come out in support of an appeal filed by Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and T.I., after a California jury last year found that their "Blurred Lines" single infringed copyright on a classic Marvin Gaye song. An amicus brief signed by 212 artists — including R. Kelly, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Hans Zimmer — argues that the jury's ruling "is very dangerous to the music community," and that it will "stifle future creativity." The amicus brief was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter.
In the March 2015 ruling, the jury determined that "Blurred Lines" copied parts of Gaye's 1977 song, "Got to Give It Up," and awarded $7.3 million to the Gaye family. (The amount was later cut to $5.3 million.) Lawyers for Thicke, Williams, and T.I. filed an appeal with the ninth circuit court of appeals last week, arguing in an opening brief that the case should have never come to court, and that the judge gave jurors improper instructions.
"All music shares inspiration from prior musical works."
"All music shares inspiration from prior musical works, especially within a particular musical genre," the brief reads. "By eliminating any meaningful standard for drawing the line between permissible inspiration and unlawful copying, the judgment is certain to stifle creativity and impede the creative process."
The amicus brief filed by the musicians argues that the case is "unique" because the songs "do not have similar melodies; the two songs do not even share a single melodic phrase." If the verdict is allowed to stand, they continue, it could have a chilling effect on future works.
"One can only imagine what our music would have sounded like if David Bowie would have been afraid to draw from Shirley Bassie, or if the Beatles would have been afraid to draw from Chuck Berry, or if Elton John would have been afraid to draw from the Beatles, or if Elvis Presley would have been afraid to draw from his many influences," the amicus brief reads.
A separate amicus brief filed this week on behalf of 10 musicologists states that "there can be no genuine disagreement among experts as to the fact that there is no harmonic similarity" between the two songs, "because the chord progressions in both works were entirely different." The brief also disputes assessments made by two musicologists hired by the Gaye family.
"We obviously believe the jury and district judge who confirmed the jury's findings were correct in finding infringement," Richard Busch, one of the Gaye family's lawyers, told the Associated Press after the appeal was filed. "Many of these same arguments now contained in their opening brief were raised and rejected by the district judge, and our own opening responsive brief will contain what we believe will be very strong replies to each and every point they raise."