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Jury Awards $7.4 Million To Family Of Marvin Gaye In "Blurred Lines" Trial
Tuesday, March 31, 2015

After a trial in the Central District of California on copyright claims brought by the family of Marvin Gaye against Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke and other artists and record companies (the “Thicke Parties”), the jury returned a verdict awarding approximately $7.4 million to the Gaye family.  The jury found that the Gaye family own a copyright in the musical composition “Got to Give It Up,” a song recorded by Marvin Gaye, and that the Thicke Parties infringed that copyright through their song “Blurred Lines.”  “Blurred Lines” was one of the most popular songs of 2013. 

According to a motion filed after trial by attorneys for the Thicke Parties, the “case is far from over.”  Rather, “[i]t is merely entering a new phase.”  The Gaye family has filed a post-trial motion seeking a permanent injunction, while their adversaries have signaled their intent to file post-trial motions attacking the verdict.  Those motions may focus on distinctions between the evidence offered at trial and the court’s prior ruling regarding the scope of the Gaye family’s copyright in Marvin Gaye’s songs. 

In October 2014, the trial court denied summary judgment on the Gaye family copyright claims.  The court also ruled on a dispute between the parties regarding the scope of the Gaye family’s copyrights.  The Gaye family argued that the copyright protected the Marvin Gaye recordings of his songs, including “Got to Give It Up.”   The court disagreed, and found that the “lead sheets are deemed to define the scope of [Gaye’s] copyrighted compositions.”  Accordingly, the “lead sheets,” the sheet music itself, was the only copyrighted property at issue after summary judgment.  The Thicke Parties may now argue that much of the evidence at trial did not relate to the sheet music for Marvin Gaye’s songs. 

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