There were no blurred lines in court when a Los Angeles jury awarded the family of deceased singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye a $7.4 million dollar verdict after it was found that Robin Thicke and Pharrell William’s 2013 smash hit, “Blurred Lines,” sampled Gaye’s hit song, “Got to Give it Up” (1977). Thicke and Williams have been ordered to pay $1.7 and 1.6 million respectively to Gaye’s family and an additional $4 million, all of which covers profit loss and damages. “Blurred Lines” grossed $16 million in profit, netting both artist a total of about $5 million each. Rapper T.I., who was featured in the song, video, and live performances, and their record company do not owe the Gaye family anything.
The case, which joins the ranks of cases that have shaken up the recording industry in the last few years, was argued by lawyer Richard S. Busch from Nashville, Tennessee. A partner in the firm, King & Ballow, Busch believes that his status as an outsider in music industry and place of origin set him apart. Inspired by a line taken from the film, “The Devil’s Advocate” (1997), Busch identifies with Al Pacino, playing Satan playing a lawyer, who credits his success to catching people by surprise. “They don’t see me coming,” Pacino tells Keanu Reeves’ character. Likewise, Busch claims his victory is in large part due to him taking Mr. Thicke and Mr. Williams by surprised, joking that they perhaps asked themselves “Who’s this guy from Nashville, Tenn.?”
Marvin Gaye’s former wife, Janis Gaye, supports Busch’s claim to being a relative outsider, as it is one of the reasons that the Gaye family decided to hire Busch. But Richard Busch’s outsider status may be coming an end following the decision delivered in this case, which is said to be one of the largest damages awards for a music copyright case. What else sets this case apart? How public it has been is particularly interesting. In many similar cases, much is settled before even nearing a courtroom, an example of this includes Grammy-winning singer Sam Smith settling to add Tom Petty as one of the co-writers for “Stay With Me,” for which he won a Grammy in 2015, after Petty argued that it sounded like his song, “I Won’t Back Down” (1989).
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