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The $5 million 'Blurred Lines' legal fight over the song's 'vibe' could permanently change the music industry

January 2, 2016

From the outside, the "Blurred Lines" lawsuit involving the family of Marvin Gaye, Robin Thicke, and Pharrell looks like a textbook copyright case.

In 2013, Gaye's family — protectors of a universally beloved soul artist — sued Thicke and Pharrell along with their label, Universal. The family alleged that the artists had copied Gaye's "Got to Give It Up" in their summer hit "Blurred Lines."
Pharrell was dismissive in testimony, Thicke admitted to being high and drunk during the recording and promotion of "Blurred Lines," and the artists contradicted each other — none of which looked good.
The final judgment, handed down just this month after lengthy disputes, gives the Gayes $5.3 million and 50% of the song's royalties for copyright infringement, one of the largest damages awards in music-copyright history.
The Gaye family won, but for those within the music industry, the ruling looks like anything but a clean victory. If it stands, its consequences could have far-reaching and potentially troubling effects on artists who are nothing like Thicke and Pharrell, changing how new music is made and released and who really gets to own it.
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