Pharrell Williams is on trial for his 2013 hit “Blurred Lines”. He wasn’t sued by feminists, but by copyright owners. The inheritors of Marvin Gaye, author of the 1977 song “Got to Give It Up”, have accused Williams and his collaborators (Robin Thicke and T.I.) of plagiarising their father’s work. Although Pharrell was familiar with Gaye’s music (to such an extent that he said he grew up listening to it) and although he admits having noticed similarities between his hit-song and the late Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up”, the star musician claims that this influence was not a deliberate part of his creative process. Pharrell Williams said he looked at Marvin Gaye as a role model, and by no means could accept the misunderstanding of his tribute as a theft. “This is the last place I want to be” – he said about court, regretting the plaintiffs’ disregard for his intention of reviving, not just copying, the style of Marvin Gaye.
The trial, which has begun last week in Los Angeles and is still on-going, has featured several comic moments like Robin Thicke’s performances of bits of “Blurred Lines”, along with bits of U2 and The Beatles songs, in order to point out that musical pieces can use similar chords without being identical. Thicke also focused on very small details of chords and sheet music, making a bit of a show of his testimony. When “Blurred Lines” was played without the vocals, Thicke bobbed his head to the music.
Williams, who did not perform music in his hour-length declaration as a witness, was nevertheless stopped in mid-sentence by the U. S. District Judge John A. Kronstadt several times, because his expositions were too detailed. The artist complained that audio comparisons between his song and “Got to Give It Up” had been crafted by the plaintiffs deliberately to make them sound more similar. However, the rule is that Gaye’s song can only be played during a copyright trial in the form submitted for copyright protection.
To make a point about the inappropriateness of courts judging art, Pharrell Williams responded to a question asked by Richard S. Busch (the lawyer of Gaye’s inheritors) – whether “Blurred Lines” conveyed the “feel of the era” in which Gaye had played music – by saying “Feel not infringed”.
Today, the trial will continue with the hearing of T. I. (Clifford Harris), who’s among the case’s final witnesses.
image source: The Sydney Morning Herald