March 10, 2015 5:49 pm -

The court is awarding $7.3 million to Marvin Gaye’s family.

Gaye’s daughter Nona Gaye wept as the verdict was being read and was hugged by her attorney, Richard Busch.

The verdict could tarnish the legacy of Williams, a reliable hit-maker who has won Grammy Awards and appears on NBC’s music competition show “The Voice.”

An attorney for Thicke and Williams has said a decision in favor of Gaye’s heirs could have a chilling effect on musicians who try to emulate an era or another artist’s sound.


D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

11 responses to Judge Finds Pharrell, Thicke, Copied Marvin Gaye Song

  1. Suzanne McFly March 10th, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    No Thicke, you can emulate the sounds of others, that is a compliment. You can’t copy the sounds of other artists, that is copyright infringement.

    • Green and Gray March 10th, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      “Sounds” are copied all the time in music. The list of artists who built on the sound of others is miles long.

    • arc99 March 10th, 2015 at 6:44 pm

      Listen to the old song Louie Louie. That Emajor Amajor Bmajor chord progression can be heard on countless songs released in the ensuing years from Angel of the Morning to Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone.

      I am a fan of old style blues a la Muddy Waters and B.B. KIng. You can play every blues song in the world using no more than 5 different chords.

      You can emulate and borrow to make something brand new. But when you copy someone else’s work, it is against the law and rightfully so.

  2. Green and Gray March 10th, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    Terrible decision for the reason noted by the lawyer. Creating totally new lyrics and melody still allows claims of infringement because a song still “sounds” similar due to instruments used in the arrangement? Dozens of songs on the radio “sound” alike. It’s hard to believe a judge could be so dumb failing to understand what a crushing effect this will have on music.

    • arc99 March 10th, 2015 at 6:47 pm

      As an amateur musician myself, I disagree completely as noted below. You can borrow without infringing on someone else’s copyrighted material.

  3. Roctuna March 10th, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    I confess, I only hear it in the bass line. The rest sounds sufficiently “original” to me, Even the tempo of the Thicke song is a bit more up beat. Similar, yes, but infringement? I don’t hear it.

  4. Mike N. March 10th, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    This will set a disastrous precedent if it’s not over turned (but I expect it to be)

    • arc99 March 10th, 2015 at 7:53 pm

      George Harrison was sued over the similarity between My Sweet Lord and He’s So Fine. It was settled in 1998 in a finding for the plaintiffs.

      The music business has not suffered a bit.

      • Green and Gray March 11th, 2015 at 10:52 am

        Very different case, arc99. Harrison’s infringement dealt with the notes of the melody being similar or identical. This case is based on the use of certain instruments (bell and bass in the background) making the song “sound” alike, even though the notes of the melody are different.

  5. ChrisVosburg March 11th, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    My understanding of copyright law as it pertains to songs is that lyrics and melody are protected, but not stuff like chord progressions or intangibles like “feel” or “groove.”

    So yeah, I’d expect to see this one thrown out on appeal, or perhaps settled with a healthy donation to the Gaye family’s favorite charity.

    Concerning Pharrell’s contention that the song is “an homage,” I’m reminded of old Jethro Tull story about their song We Used To Know and the fact that The Eagles, who toured with Tull in ‘72, used the same chord progression in “Hotel California” a few years later. Different key, different time signature, but Ian Anderson noticed as well, and graciously said in an interview that he considered it “a tribute, much in the same sense as the tribute Rolex watch I’m now wearing.”

    Oh that Ian!

  6. Joe Bosse March 27th, 2015 at 7:25 am

    That’s okay, I’m still happy.