11.03.15 by Jeff

Robin Thicke and Pharrell Ordered to Pay $7.4 Million for Stealing from Marvin Gaye


According to The Guardian, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams have been ordered to pay $7.4 million to Marvin Gaye’s children for copying the late singer’s song “Got to Give It Up”, for their song “Blurred Lines”.

There are so many opportunities here for bad puns based on the two song titles, but all joking aside, this is actually pretty crazy. If you listen to both songs, it’s obvious that Robin Thicke and Pharrell were inspired by Marvin Gaye and that era, but I fail to see (hear) the plagiarism. What parts did they steal? The lyrics are different, the chord progression is different; I don’t understand the ruling.

I do think Robin Thicke is a spineless hack. He claimed he wrote “Blurred Lines” before the lawsuit, and then quickly threw Pharrell under the bus, claiming Pharrell penned the whole thing while he was drunk and high. He is talentless and slimey, but none of that changes the fact that these two songs are different. Marvin Gaye’s children do not deserve anything in this particular case.

If this goes through it’s setting a pretty scary precedent. I’ve embedded both songs below so you can compare the two. I honestly can’t figure out how they came to this decision.



Jeff Hamada is the Founder and Editor of Booooooom. He lives and works in Vancouver.

  • Joe

    Agreed. Seems like a very strange case. Pharrell and Thicke actually sued the Gaye estate first to force a judgement in their favor. I blame all of this on lawyers.

    • Alexander Kandiloros

      Did the lawyers decide to sue? ;)

  • The lawsuit isn’t for copying the entire song. It would be from unauthorized/uncompensated sampling. You can hear the similarities in the percusion. Is it possible it’s just similar? Totally possible. Is it possible they sampled the percusion hoping to sneak by? Also possible. Well never know unless we can see their source files.

    • iiiivvvv

      Justin, not exactly. Here’s where it get’s tricky. According to the New York Times: “The family accuses Mr. Thicke and his colleagues of using distinct musical elements of Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up” without permission.” “musical elements” is the important ambiguity there.
      At the heart of this case is a very complicated distinction between “musical” choices and “production” choices. The former can be copyrighted, and the latter cannot. That’s all fine and good, assuming that you can tell the difference between the two – the court even ordered the judgement be made on the sheet-music alone – the jury probably could not tell the difference (pro-tip: most people can’t). Pharrell and Thicke’s musical choices were different (different notes, rhythms, keys), and no actual audio was sampled, but the production choices were similar enough in the eyes of the jury to call this an infringement. To me, the outrage isn’t “these songs are different and they missed it!” it’s : “certain production choices, decision-making, and influence now constitute an infringement of copyright!”. That being said, it’ll get overturned…rant_over

      • Ahhhh. Didn’t catch that part. “Musical Elements” what an awfully ambiguous term. Appreciate you breaking it down for me. As a musician I can see the similarities in the percussion, however as noted in the article, there’s enough differences in everything else that this shouldn’t even be a case. They really reached on this one, unfortunately the reach was a success. I agree it’ll probably get overturned. Let’s hope so at least. As much as I hate this song, they don’t deserve this lawsuit.

      • yea i believe they refer to this as interpolation – a song being replayed rather than being sampled.

        totally agree with you iiivvv on your last point

  • Jen Sessions

    Not a fan of Robin Thicke, but I do recall first hearing “Blurred Lines” and thinking that Michael Jackson’s song “Don’t Stop Till You Get enough” was the song sampled and “broken down” production-wise to make the tune. In short…it sounds like ALOT of songs from the past. It will be interesting to see how all of this evolves….

  • Not surprising…

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