Faculty & Leadership Blog / Research and Practice

Marvin Gaye Verdict: “Vibe” Of Song As Important As Melody

The jury verdict in the copyright theft lawsuit against Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke came out yesterday. The defendants were told to pay $7 plus million dollars in damages to Marvin Gaye’s estate for illegally copying his 1970s hit, “Gotta Give It Up” with their song, “Blurred Lines”.

Composer and law professor Toni Lester has this to say about the verdict: “I’m happy to see that the jury took seriously the claim that when the ‘feel’ of a song is as creative and innovative as the kind developed by so many of the great black artists of the past on whose shoulders today’s popular artists stand, that that ‘feel’ is worthy of protection.”

Lester outlined the challenges of convincing a judge or jury to do just that in her 2014 article, “Blurred Lines—Where Copyright Ends and Cultural Appropriation Begins—The Case of Robin Thicke Vs. the Estate of Marvin Gaye” (Hastings Communication and Entertainment Law Journal).