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Is Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' a case of infringement?

When recording artist Robin Thicke released his song "Blurred Lines" in 2013, few people thought anything beyond the fact that it was just another song to listen to. But the more the song was played on the radio and television, and the more popularity it gained, there was one group of people that started to see the song as something quite differently than "just another song."

That group of people, as many of our California readers probably know by now, was the family of the late singer Marvin Gaye who couldn't help but notice the similarities between Gaye's hit "Got to Give It Up" and Thicke's "Blurred Lines." This led to a complaint filed by Gaye's estate that seeks declaratory relief in order to answer a simple question: is Thicke guilty of copyright infringement?

As we explained before in a post last year, proving copyright infringement hinges on whether an average observer could see -- or in this case hear -- similarities between two works that would otherwise lead someone to believe that one was copied from the other. In the case of "Blurred Lines," even though Thicke admits that he was inspired by Gaye and that the two songs have the same feeling, the jury will still need to determine whether or not the two are similar enough to qualify as possible infringement.

Whether Thicke meant to or not, it's possible that a jury could side with the plaintiff's, which could lead to litigation for copyright infringement as has already been threatened by Bridgeport Music and Gaye's family. On the other hand, if the jury does not deem the two songs sufficiently similar to warrant an infringement claim, then Thicke may not face any further litigation in the matter.

Sources: The Los Angeles Times, "How the 'Blurred Lines' case could have chilling effect on creativity," Randall Roberts, March 6, 2015

Forbes, "The Blurred Lines Of Copyright Law: Robin Thicke v. Marvin Gaye's Estate," Oliver Herzfeld, Aug. 20, 2013

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