Billboard may have named Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” the song of the summer, but the controversy surrounding the song remains strong. Amidst threats of copyright infringement suits being filed, Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I. have filed their own declaratory judgment suit to have a court determine once and for all that the instant hit does not infringe the works of musical legends, namely Funkadelic’s ‘Sexy Ways’ and Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got To Give It Up.’
The lawsuit begins by showing the plaintiff’s reverence to Marvin Gaye and Funkadelic, but insists that the “[p]laintiffs created a hit and did it without copying anyone else’s composition.”
As evidenced by its substantial discussion in various media outlets, including radio station programs, television programs, Internet commentaries and even TMZ, many have questioned why Robin Thicke, Pharrell and T.I. sued Marvin Gaye’s descendants if they are the supposed infringers. Especially if they allege that Marvin Gaye’s descendants are not even the owners of the copyright to ‘Got To Give It Up.’
The reason may have more to do with Bridgeport Music, Inc., which owns Funkadelic’s song ‘Sexy Ways.’ As the complaint alleges Bridgeport is “in the business of acquiring and exploiting copyright interests in musical compositions, and in the business of trolling for opportunities to threaten to sue and to sue musicians, performers, producers and others in the music industry for infringement of its copyrights.” Filing a declaratory judgment allows the plaintiffs to choose the battleground, as Bridgeport has favored the Sixth Circuit, which has set some very pro-copyright holder precedent.
In an interesting development, George Clinton, the mastermind behind Funkadelic, tweeted, “No sample of #Funkadelic’s ‘Sexy Ways’ in @robinthicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ – yet Armen Boladin* thinks so? We support @robinthicke @Pharrell!”
While disputed by the plaintiffs, from the relevant sections of ‘Blurred Lines’ and ‘Got To Give It Up,’ there could appear to some to have a similar “feel” or “sound.” However, the plaintiffs have also requested the court to determine that the Gayes do not even have an interest in the copyright to the composition ‘Got To Give It Up,’ and thus they would not have standing to pursue claims of infringement.
*Armen Boladin is the head of Bridgeport Music, Inc.
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