Wednesday, September 18, 2013


The recent declaratory judgment lawsuit filed by Robin Thicke, Pharrell, and Clifford Harris, Jr. (collectively “Plaintiffs”) raises the question about how much “inspiration” does it take to be copyright infringement.    The Plaintiff are seeking declaratory judgment that their song “Blurred Lines” does not infringe on the song “Sexy Ways” by the Funkadelics (owned by Bridgeport Music, Inc.) nor “Got To Give It Up” by Marvin Gaye (owned by heirs of Marvin Gaye) (collectively “Defendants”).  See Complaint – Central District of California – 13CV6004(JAK)(AGRx).

Such infringement lawsuits over popular music are not uncommon.     In this particular instance, the Plaintiffs admit they were “inspired” by the Marvin Gaye song.   See   Pharrell also acknowledged Marvin Gaye’s influence.  See

In the Fogerty v. Fantasy case, Fantasy Records sued John Fogerty who was a former member of the band, Credence Clearwater Revival.   Fantasy claimed that Fogerty’s song “The Old Man Down the Road” infringed on the CCR song “Run Through The Jungle” owned by Fantasy.  That case was decided by a jury but clearly the lyrics were different and while there was a similar ‘swamp rock’ sound, the composition was not the same.  In that case the jury found no infringement by Fogerty.  (Like many other copyright infringement decisions involving famous songs, the Fogerty lawsuit has an interesting backstory.  See

The Plaintiffs are likely to rely on a similar argument in the Blurred Lines case.   They will argue that “Sexy Ways” and “Got To Give It Up” may have similar feel or thematic sound but the Defendants do not have a right to a genre of music.  This is likely to fit well with the arguments in Fogerty and the “swamp rock” style of music. 

George Clinton of The Funkadelics tweeted that he does not believe that “Sexy Ways” is similar to “Blurred Lines.”  See

On the other hand, there is the case of George Harrison’s song “My Sweet Lord” infringing The Chiffon’s hit song “He’s So Fine” which was owned by Bright Tunes.  In that case, the Court found that the ubiquitous “He’s So Fine” was subconsciously copied given the similar nature of the works.  (The Harrison case also has a fascinating background.  See

Do you think that “Blurred Lines” infringes “Sexy Ways” or “Got To Give It Up?”

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