I haven’t had much of a chance in this space to discuss one of my longest- and best-beloved areas of substantive law—copyright. Last winter, I had the privilege to co-author (with Howard Abrams of Detroit Mercy) an amicus curiae brief on behalf of fourteen of the most accomplished musicologists in the country. The brief was filed in support of Motown giant Marvin Gaye’s family (Gaye passed away in 1984) in the Ninth Circuit appeal of the celebrated case claiming that the 2013 hit “Blurred Lines,” written and performed by (among others) Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, infringed Gaye’s 1976 soul-funk classic “Got To Give It Up.” The Gayes won several million dollars in unpaid royalties at trial. Thicke and Pharrell were displeased.
Among the commentary that has been offered on the case was an op-ed in the San Francisco and Los Angeles Daily Journal raising the apocalyptic admonitions about the End of the World as We Know It that are often rolled out when someone is caught using somebody else’s work without paying for it. You can find my response (originally entitled “Robin Thicke’s Rumors of the Death of Popular Music Are Greatly Exaggerated” but somewhat shortened by the headline editor), published earlier this week in the same papers, here. Unfortunately both pieces are behind the Daily Journal’s paywall, but that’s what they insisted on.
The case was argued earlier this month. Stay tuned for a decision whenever the Ninth Circuit is ready.