‘Blurred Lines’ Jury Orders Pharrell, Robin Thicke to Pay $7.3 Million to Marvin Gaye Family

Blurred Lines Verdict
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Walmart

In a landmark decision for the music industry, a jury in Los Angeles ordered “Blurred Lines” songwriters Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to pay $7.3 million to the family of Marvin Gaye for copyright infringement on Tuesday.

Gaye’s family had argued that the 2013 smash hit “Blurred Lines” copied their father’s 1977 song “Got to Give It Up” and sued Thicke, Williams and Clifford Harris Jr., aka T.I., whom all contested the infringement.

Overall, the Gaye family sought more than $25 million in damages.

“Right now, I feel free,” Marvin Gaye’s daughter, Nona Gaye, said after the verdict. “Free from … Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke’s chains and what they tried to keep on us and the lies that were told.”

The attorney for the Gaye family, Richard Busch, will also seek to halt sales of “Blurred Lines,” and said he will file official paperwork by next week.

Nominated for record of the year at the 2013 Grammys, “Blurred Lines” was no. 1 on the Billboard single charts for 10 consecutive weeks. Since it was released, “Blurred Lines” has earned nearly $16.5 million in profits according to court documents, with Williams and Thicke raking in over $5 million each.

Gaye died in 1984.

Both Thicke and Williams appeared in court during the past week to defend their case, with much of the trial featuring comparisons between the songs. Listening to the juxtaposed bass lines of the two songs in question, Williams even admitted the similarities, saying, “It sounds like you’re playing the same thing.”

Still, while testifying last week, Williams said the two songs share “feel — not infringement.”

The proceedings were perhaps most notable for the presence of Thicke, who sang and played the piano as he defended the work as original and said he was intoxicated when he gave media interviews in which he talked about Gaye’s influence on the works. He also said that he was mistaken when he claimed credit for writing part of the song.

The eight-person jury closed its full day of closed-door deliberations on Friday after hearing a week of testimony, with court resuming on Tuesday.

Ted Johnson contributed to this report.

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    1. Brenda says:

      Tone Deaf Jury!

    2. Phyllis says:

      Why doesn’t the Gaye family just get the royalties from the song then, instead of fighting to keep it from the airwaves?

    3. You cannot protect a beat via outright copyright unless it is a part of a copyrighted performance, hence they needed no permission to use any similar beat on Blurred Lines.

      Unless an actual beat has been electronically sampled from the original recording (EX: think James Brown Funky Drummer beat sampled on dang near every early 80’s rap record, which JB sued and won) no compensation or credit would be deemed necessary simply because a beat was similar or identical, provided it was uniquely produced and not sampled.

      You simply cannot copyright a beat or ‘feel’ or ‘vibe’ no matter how blatantly obvious it might be. The beat, vibe and feel of a song does not constitute copyright infringement. Learn the law, its there to protect original works, regardless of how influences, nuanced or damn near identical a beat, feel or vibe might be.

    4. They have a similar type of sound but the various parodies of “blurred lines” have more in common with “blurred lines” than this Marvin Gaye song has.

    5. usedtobeamarvingayefan says:

      As my username says, I used to be a Marvin Gaye fan until this. I grew up listening to Marvin Gaye. He was my favorite singer growing up. But this is tearing his name apart. These songs are clearly not the same. Now they are going after Pharrell again for his song Happy. Marvin Gaye must be rolling over in his grave with embarrassment for what his family is doing. Money hungry and deaf at the same time. This will opening up suits all over the world because every song can be said to sound like another song. (Counrty music is a great example) Someone can come up and say Marvin Gaye copied other people’s music. They need to overturn the decision on Blurred Lines and leave Pharrell and other musicians alone.

    6. BCoov says:

      This decision truly sucks. The song has a different chord structure, a different melody, and different lyrics. It is in the style of Marvin Gaye, but if you write the notes out, it is not the same song. This is true greed on the part of Gaye’s kids and true musical stupid on the part of the jury. As a side note, if anything, “Got To Give It Up”, which I love, went up in sales because of “Blurred Lines” since it reminded people of that great groove.

    7. clearly i know enough that you don’t steal from some one else. that’s what i was taught by my parents.

    8. Brian says:

      I’m thinking you don’t understand the word “wholesale” all that much. For example, Marvin Gaye’s children are WHOLESALE stealing the credit and the money from James Jamerson’s kids. Because the part of this that was determined to be “the same”, which is the bassline, was not the work of Gaye at all! It’s quite obvious you don’t know who he is, so you should look him up. The fact that he died poor and bitter and alone around the same time Gaye did, and that his kids have had to work for a living while Gaye’s children’s first job was the con job they just pulled on a jury and on the public, with these tears and BS about Robin Thicke’s “chains”. What a crock. You know who else was alleged to have been robbed by this song? George Clinton…the reason you didn’t know this? Because the guy who actually created funk said there’s no way he’d go after an artist for using a piece of one of his songs to create something new. And the Who said they won’t go after One Direction for The Best Song Ever. Basically, the artists who are alive don’t feel ripped off by people revisiting their beats, and many of them aren’t so brazen as to sue over SOMEONE ELSE’S work! It’s ridiculous

      • Brian, you make a great point. This song ruined Robin Thicke’s life. He would be the first to admit it. He totally crashed his marriage and making amends to Gaye’s family might be the best thing for him. My point is that when I first heard that song I immediately thought of Marvin Gaye’s “You Gotta to Give It Up.” In this world, it’s not so much who wrote it, but you made it.” Look at what Yoko Ono did to Paul McCartney with the music him and John Lennon wrote TOGETHER, literally terminating Paul from the credits because his entire name didn’t fit on the label. This is truly a dog eat dog world. There’s a lot of money … if nothing else, it should be DONATED to musical artists who need support now that they have nothing to fall back on.

        • Brian says:

          That’s a good suggestion, Annabelle. Especially when those artists who need support are responsible for virtually EVERY bass part in EVERY major Motown hit from the 50’s thru the 70’s! The Four Tops, the Supremes, etc. The Funk Brothers were the unsung masterminds behind ALL OF THEM! The Jamerson Brothers were the most screwed-over musical geniuses of our lifetimes. That was a TRUE black-on-black crime. Marvin Gaye and family lived in the lap of luxury, while the Jamerson family squandered in poverty and obscurity. And Gaye’s BIGGEST HITS, especially “Let’s Get it On” and “Mercy Mercy Me” were NOT instant classics because of the lyrics. It was because of the smooth, jazzy/R&B beats that bridged the gap between a genre that was limited to the urban upper Midwest and the south, and the national “pop” sound of its time. In an era where disco threatened to turn music into a science, rather than an art-form, Jamerson’s work kept live music relevant and evolving. And ALL OF THESE PEOPLE support the wrong people, on the basis that “stealing is wrong”. The greatest musical heist of all time continues to be perpetrated, even after the original thieves are dead…their kids are keeping up the stealing tradition.

    9. the family should have gotten more then the 7.3 mil.

    10. Susan says:

      i would feel free with that money too! Come on! Let’s be real!

    11. Lawrence says:

      I think that’s outrageous, totally different vibes, the Gayes must have had some good lawyers or a stupid judge, they so should appeal this, not to mention it destroys the ethos of art..

    12. D Brown says:

      It’s all about the beat: Stuck in the middle with you – 1972, Got to give it up – 1977, All I wanna do – 1993, Blurred lines 2014. Similar but not infringement. Stylistically, MG’s and PW’s are more similar to each other with the falsettos and the party screams, still no infringement. The melody do not match.

    13. Debbie Tucker says:

      Omg. They all but did the same hook.

    14. Debbie Tucker says:

      Are you serious, I knew it was from the first day it was released. I played this song since it came out in the seventies and knew instantly. I have an hear for music. The killer was they knew it too?

    15. adam says:

      They definitely deserve to pay and I’m happy for the verdict.
      On a side note, this was probably one of the most poorly written articles I’ve read in a while.

    16. charlotte esquilant says:

      considering “Blurred Lines” is about RAPE, this is the least Thicke and Williams deserve…i think they are revolting people.

    17. The original tracks of these two songs are nowhere near alike other than a bass track which gives them a similar feel. MG’s kin may be happy with stealing 7M – but they will lose to cooler, saner heads on appeal and will never see a cent.

    18. Gregg Jackman says:

      I think they’ll get it turned over on appeal. I fail to spot much similarity other than similar instrumentation. The Marvin Gaye record is an unstructured bunch of vocal licks over mainly one chord. That is something he used to do very well. (check out Sexual Healing. A great groove, but where’s the song?) The Blurred Lines record is a well structured pop song with a useful melody. One that you could sing while strumming your acoustic guitar. If the two do not share melody and\or lyric then this should have been dismissed. This is usually what’s used to test intellectual copyright on a song. If they’re suggesting that anything was “sampled” then I can’t detect it. If they’re trying to suggest that you can’t use that bass line then they all pinched it from J.S. Bach anyway.
      This is unlike the George Harrison “My Sweet Lord” case, since that was actually note for note identical. It couldn’t be denied.
      Perhaps the confusion comes from the Mash-up mix that’s out there on youtube. The one song does slide neatly into the other and back again and clearly makes use of Marvin Gaye’s fame.

    19. Stephanie says:

      Who cares that song was annoying AF

    20. tashia says:

      All of u that’s on here talking about do the Gaye family need money, i bet if it was your dad’s music u all would be doing the same thing so all of u need to stfu. Nobody would be taking my dad’s legacy and doing what they want to do with it either, especially without my permission.

      • Brian says:

        How do you think the family of the guy who actually MADE those bass parts feels? James Jamerson, that’s who Gaye ripped off, by stealing the credit. Gaye made millions, and Jamerson made Gaye. It’s hypocrisy!

    21. KLM says:

      Jori, sorry youngster your comment was juvenile. I detected a little racial overtone as well. Chill…… :(

    22. Writers of WW2 song ‘Yes, we have no bananas’ should be sued!
      Hallelujah (from the Chorus of the same name) ‘bananas’ Oh bring back my bonny to me…….

    23. Ben says:

      Can someone please help explain to some of these people the difference between a beat and a melody? That’s the problem with making music today. Its only so much button pressing and “beat” making anyone thinks they can do it. The fact is…. They ripped off a song. Beat and melody.

    24. worldhawk says:

      All music sounds like some other song someone has heard before.

    25. motown65 says:

      I wonder if Smokey the bear is gonna sue Pharrel for ripping off his hat?

    26. Debbie T says:

      Off subject. They had no business trying to get away with using their daddy’s must and pretending they created the sound to make make money. Pay the family.

    27. Lisa says:

      So, because Peanut Butter M & M’s are similar to Reese’s Pieces, they should be able to sue, right?

    28. Erin says:

      I don’t get why the Gaye family didn’t sue over Robin Thicke BLATANTLY stealing Marvin’s “Trouble Man” and just calling it “Million Dollar Baby”. I mean, you seriously cannot steal a song more than he did with that one! He DID change the lyrics, though, so there’s that.

    29. janiceclaire says:

      It so sad that these artist think that they are so innovative. Who seriously do they think they are fooling with their plagiarism. About 80% of what they consider music is copied. It so insulting how these artist rely on the ignorance of the younger generation to make a living off blood sweat and tears of legitimate artists.

    30. These Artist have to give respect where respect is due all they had to do was check with the Gaye family and i am almost sure they would have been flatter by the offer to use their father music they could have offer them about 50 to 100 thousand bucks they might would have taken it and let them use the music but now due to their arrogance and greed they are not out of millions

    31. Robert Clavette says:

      So much of today’s music is hacked and torn from the classics of Rock. Sad that talent is almost always a state of standing on the shoulders of true genius!

      • Mike says:

        And those classics of Rock stole their sound from early blues guys who got nothing and lived in obscurity. Music doesn’t come from thin air, it’s something that’s built upon over decades of people inspiring one another. This ruling is a sad day for future music.

    32. Thnhs0509 says:

      Its BS does not relate at all except the opening beat. That judge will rot and so will the Gaye Family.

    33. Ellesar says:

      What feeble excuses from Thicke – obviously he knew full well.

    34. GJ Robertson says:

      What in inane decision. Are they going back to sue all the classical music greats who borrowed from each other? The only similarity between the two is the beat – so now we can only have one song with each beat line and then nobody can ever use that beat again? Stupid, stupid, stupid. I hope they get much better lawyers with a much wider understanding of music to fight the appeal.

      • Mefirst says:

        They can use them. They just have to get permission and pay first. I think that’s fair–somebody else contributed to the work, they should be paid unless they agree to do it for free. What I do have second thoughts about is the attempt to halt further sales–which hurts everybody. It’s probably a legal tactic to get Thicke et al. to agree to give the Gaye family a portion of future sales–which is not unreasonable. Thicke and Williams should cooperate and negotiate in good faith.

        • @mefirst…you cannot protect a beat via copyright, hence they needed no permission to use the beat Unless an actual beat has been sampled electronically from the original recording (EX: think James Brown Funky Drummer beat on dang near every early rap record, which JB sued and won) no compensation or credit would be deemed necessary simply because a beat was similar or identical, provided it was uniquely produced and not sampled.

          You simply cannot copyright a beat or ‘feel’ or ‘vibe’ no matter how blatantly obvious it might be. The beat, vibe and feel of a song does not constitute copyright infringement. Learn the law, its there to protect original works, regardless of how influences, nuanced or damn near identical a beat, feel or vibe might be.

        • Mike says:

          So billions of humans on earth should get paid because their caveman ancestor created a 4×4 beat by hitting stick on a rock?

    35. Reading all these DELUSIONAL comments about how the song sounded nothing like the original, or how it was flattery… I’m willing to bet everything I own, that there are a bunch of ELVIS fans commenting. SMFH…

    36. Cindy Kingbird says:

      Both individuals sued lost me as a fan when 1) Robin Thicke publicly admitted his cheating ways making a fool of himself trying to get his beautiful wife back, and 2) Pharrel promoting models wearing Native American headdresses that had NO PLACE doing so.
      ***PRIME EXAMPLE OF KHARMA, BAYBAY!! I do NOT feel sorry for them; they got what they had coming. Just do right!!

    37. They didn’t sound alike to me. But b people do anything to get money these days. People need to pray for each other and stop all this nonsense suing people,people are leaving this world today and where the money going back to the government

      • tashia says:

        Those songs sound everything alike, I’m an oldie woman which is all i basically listen to and the reason i like the song is bcuz u can hear Marvin Gaye all in it. That’s the first thing u heart when the song come on is Marvin Gaye voice

    38. Carol Wade says:

      I remember the Marvin Gaye song in the 70’s unless there’s something wrong with my hearing it’s nothing like Blurred Lines? Are the Gaye family short of cash???

    39. They got it all wrong here. They are tarnishing Marvin’s memory. The beat may be a bit similar in one spot get over it , so not a copy !

    40. eloi says:

      so the song made 15mil, but they got fined 7mil. Still a really good business to rip off it seems.

      • Ok. They could have just gotten permission from the Gaye family and made even MORE money off of it. No, that is not a good business decision.

        • @michaelcliffordgaye you cannot protect a beat via copyright, hence need no permission to use a beat Unless an actual beat has been sampled electronically from the original recording (EX: think James Brown Funky Drummer beat on dang near every early rap record, which JB sued and won) no compensation or credit would be deemed necessary simply because a beat was similar or identical, provided it was uniquely produced and not sampled.

          You simply cannot copyright a beat or ‘feel’ or ‘vibe’ no matter how blatantly obvious it might be. The beat, vibe and feel of a song does not constitute copyright infringement. Learn the law, its there to protect original works, regardless of how influences, nuanced or damn near identical a beat, feel or vibe might be.

    41. It’s funny to read some of comments of folks who were, in obvious likelihood, riding tricycle at the time Gaye’s HIT song was all over the radio and had us running to the dance floor. And even a novice musician can look at sections of these tunes written out and see the rather blatant ripoff of his work. This was a no brainer. You can’t just borrow wholesale from another man’s work….

      • I remember roller skating to this and dancing to it in the discos. So, what you remember of the 70’s bares no resemblance to what the LAW says about copyright protection, which is what THIS case IS about. Just as you cannot copyright or lay claim to the ‘feel’ of Disco, R&B, Soul or any other genre that exemplified some of the music of the 70’s you also cannot protect a beat via copyright, hence they needed no permission to use the beat Unless an actual beat has been sampled electronically from the original recording (EX: think James Brown Funky Drummer beat on dang near every early rap record, which JB sued and won) no compensation or credit would be deemed necessary simply because a beat was similar or identical, provided it was uniquely produced and not sampled.

        You simply cannot copyright a beat or ‘feel’ or ‘vibe’ no matter how blatantly obvious it might be. The beat, vibe and feel of a song does not constitute copyright infringement. Learn the law, its there to protect original works, regardless of how influences, nuanced or damn near identical a beat, feel or vibe might be.

    42. SNNY says:

      non sense verdict,if that song not selling WHAT

    43. Mama Knows Best Baby says:

      I don’t give a d*** who TOLD them to steal the music! That’s b*******! These are all grown assed men who know right from wrong! They know that they must gain permission to access any rights to use anyone’s music whether it be lyrics or music. They knew it! This is not the first time a so called artist tried to get away with not paying what they owe! Anyone with ears knows that song was from Marvin Gaye! They ain’t fooling nobody! I used to like Robin Thicke but has since lost all respect for him. Never buying his music again. TI and Pharrell can also go somewhere! SMH!

      • GJ Robertson says:

        Except they didn’t rip anything off. The beats are similar. So are the beats of many other songs. Take a chill pill.

        • KLM, I AM a musician of over 35 years and the difference between you and I is knowing copyright law, which apparently you know nothing.

          Lesson #1: The parts of a song that can be protected under copyright law; Lyrics, Melody, and Musical Arrangement of Notes that Define a Song or Musical Composition. The Process of Fixing Music or Sound on a Medium that can Reproduce and Play Back the Music upon Demand.

          Lesson #2: You cannot protect a beat via copyright. Unless an actual beat has been sampled electronically from the original recording, no compensation or credit would is deemed necessary simply because a beat was similar or identical, provided it was uniquely produced and not sampled from another authors original recording.

          Based on your failed argument, any song that begins with an identical beat to another would constitute copyright infringement, which would include every single song that starts off with a 4/4 kick/snare/HiHat rock beat.

          Do I think it was too close for comfort and a complete stain on the memory of a great musician and writer like Marvin Gaye? Yes I do. I hate the Blurred Lines song but You simply don’t know the law. Now you do.

        • KLM says:

          You are obviously not a musician. It’s not just the beat. It’s the likeness of the song. Which is spot on to Marvin Gaye’s song. I think they had an idea that it was close to the original but felt safe that it wouldn’t be compared to Marvin Gaye’s song.

    44. Andy cartwright says:

      Only so many notes on a scale and so many chords if you try hard enough you will find similar songs all through time bit pathetic if you ask me it’s evolution of music people hear something like it and take bits of feel bits of progressions etc. greed for money I suppose that’s all it is

    45. Song is grotesque either way

    46. Yes, surprising how it takes 7.3 million to make someone feel free Cases like this shouldnt even be taken up, what a complete waste of time. Its the music industry, this happens. Im much more of Marvin Gayes era and never heard of his version, but Im very familiar with the recent one. Greedy Gaye family I say.

    47. Hmmm, wondering why the Gaye original wasn’t a hit if Pharrel and Thicke just stole it. They must have done something different in order to bring new life to an old and forgotten song. (if it was an old song in the first place) The real question is these obscene laws that keep ownership for all these years. Gaye has been dead for a long, long time. What has the family done to earn that 7 million?

      • Kexia says:

        Are you KIDDING me, Jack Johnson? (Nice name rip off, by the way. LOL!) I wasn’t even BORN when Marvin Gaye’s song came out. However, as a child I grew up listening to it because it was so popular. So much so that when I heard Thicke’s version I immediately though of Gaye’s song and assumed that it was LEGALLY sampled. I was shocked when I heard Thicke trying to claim that he created it.

      • Katina Hay says:

        The song is not forgotten. Just because you can’t relate to a ska-inspired, r&b classic, doesn’t mean many of us can’t. What a sack of crap. Yeah, I don’t listen to or know the Rolling Stones songs past “Satisfaction”, but that doesn’t make their body of music any less relevant. FOH

      • this comment is everything wrong with the early 21st century.

      • Josh says:

        they hired a good lawyer.

      • Sebastian says:

        Gaye’s version was a hit and is still very popular.

      • Ashley says:

        my feelings precisely

        • biglistener says:

          Got to Give It Up was a huge hit and has been used in movies and is constantly in rotation on radio…which is probably why they stole it. And get a clue; Elvis has been gone a long time too, but the Presley clan still benefits from his intellectual property. It’s called an inheritance.

    48. Joy Chasteen says:

      Oh my God really. The jury sucked. Every song written has some other song sound to it. I mean really listen to the 50’s music. Sorry Pharrel and Rob that is so wrong. Also Rob man up next time and back up Pharrell next time. Love you both

      • Al johnson says:

        Joy get your facts straight Pharrel Williams & Robin Thick sued first AND then the Gaye family counter sued , listen to the songs on YOUTUBE & ask why Blurred Lines starts with the party noises exactly the same way as Got to give it up & then listen to the melodies and falsetto styles used THIS SONG WAS A RIP OFF NOT A HOMAGE !!!

      • I think they should appeal it. Maybe it sounds similar but if the Gaye song is obscure and it didn’t make it to the hit list then they are just after money. Maybe they can get this verdict over turned. Kinda crappy because people liked their song and now they are going to make it so no one can buy it. If they had wanted Marvin Gaye, they would have bought his song.

        • Katina Hay says:

          Lonestarr, my sentiments exactly. These folks don’t know what they are talking about. My personal opinion is that there are similarities, but I would not have voted as this jury did. Yet, for these people to say that “Got To Give It Up” was not a huge hit obviously are still rather young, and have no musical history to relate to outside of whatever their mommy and daddies listened to back then. Obviously you wouldn’t hear it if it wasn’t the type of music your family listened to.

        • lonestarr says:

          It was a huge hit. Per Wikipedia, it topped three US charts, was Billboard’s #20 overall for the year of 1977, was a top-10 hit in the UK, the album it was featured on sold 2 million copies, and the song has appeared in no less than a dozen TV shows and movies since the 1990s.

    49. I see comments from MANY, obviously, very young people here who also obviously have no education or experience in music.

    50. John says:

      you sir must be very young..but we are all entitled to our own opinions..I was alive when marvin was and I am alive now..there is no comparison to at all..just people that want to seem as they know more than themselves and history..it’s okay..we all have our opinion..I just have more respect for those that base their opinion on facts..wish you knew the difference is all..people just love to find fault in everyting these days too bad..it’s just a shame

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