This article originally appeared in the 3.5.15 issue of Metroland
The “Blurred Lines” case, in which Marvin Gaye’s kids are
trying to shake down Robin Thicke, Pharrell and TI, is in the midst of trial
right now in LA.
It’s not going very
well for Team Gaye.
The judge knocked
the stuffing out of the Gayes’ case last month by ruling that the jury would
not be allowed to hear the Marvin Gaye recording of “Got To Give It Up,” the
song allegedly infringed by Thicke & Co. in writing “Blurred Lines.”
Well it’s like this.
With any recording, there are two copyrights:
one for the song, the composition, and another for the performance of that
song, the recording.
What constitutes the song
is typically limited to the
melody and lyrics, and sometimes a unique chord or song structure.
Everything else is embodied in the
Gaye children are claiming that “Blurred Lines” infringes the song
“Got To Give It Up,” which they
However, they do not
own the recording of “Got To Give It
That is owned by Motown Records,
which has the same parent company (Universal) as Interscope, which released
And Motown isn’t about
to sue its cousin.
Gayes are left with is what was submitted when the song “Got To Give It Up” was
registered at the Copyright Office: sheet music.
That’s what they own, and that’s what they
have to show was infringed by Thicke, Pharrell and TI.
Not Marvin Gaye’s voice, not the groove, not
the background vocals, not the bass line, not the drum sound or the
The melody and
Not a whole lot to go with.
been a hard slog at trial, with the jury being presented with piano-and-voice
versions of the competing songs, and with Thicke giving a mini-concert of the
various songs he says influenced the songwriting process (a medley including "With Or Without You,"
"Let It Be,"
"No Woman No
Cry" and "Man In the Mirror"). Then the jury had to suffer through the
Gayes’ musicologist experts trying to tie the competing songs together,
including comparing the “hook lines” “keep on dancin’” and “took a good girl”
which both come “immediately after the bar line” and “share three out of four
That’s the best the Gaye camp has
got, apparently. They also made a big
deal out of the fact that Thicke, Farrell and TI listened to “Got To Give It
Up” during the songwriting and recording process, which proves exactly
nothing. As Bert Sommer used to say
“That’s show-biz babe!” This lawsuit
should never have been brought, and it never should have been allowed to go to trial. We’re talking here about influence, not
stealing, and if Marvin Gaye’s kids got a piece of every tune Marvin Gaye
influenced, they’d all be richer than Warren Buffett.
The trial should wind up this week
and we’ll probably get a verdict sometime next week.
You may have heard that a library in
Trumbull, Connecticut (near Bridgeport) recently removed a recently-donated
painting of Mother Theresa out of concerns of copyright infringement. I guarantee you that this wasn’t a
librarian’s decision, because librarians, every single one of them in the world
ever, are so much smarter than this. The
trustees of the library, and any attorney they consulted, should be publically
shamed, tar-and-feathered, or perhaps taken out back and whooped good. And the same goes for the knucklehead
reporters who were on this story.
The painting showed Mother Teresa
surrounded by numerous activist women, including Margaret Sanger, the founder
of Planned Parenthood. The painting had
been in the library for months when complaints started coming in from local
Catholic leaders. The library appeared
to be holding tough until someone mentioned there might be a copyright issue
with Mother Teresa’s image, and down came the painting.
The problem is that no one can own a
copyright in a person’s image. And there’s no “right of publicity” claim here
either, as Mother Teresa was a rather famous person and her image isn’t being
used to sell things. And then there’s
the small issue that she’s a dead woman from India whose image has popped up in
So the Catholics came up with a
scare tactic that smoked the ignorant and cowardly trustees of a little library
and a piece of art got banished as a result.
I could see nonsense like this happening in Alabama or East Texas. Or Iran. But Connecticut? In 2015? Really?
Paul Rapp is an attorney ensconced in his
mountain lair deep in the Berkshires, where he makes nougat, watches old
movies, and drinks prodigious amounts of bourbon.