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Copyright Infringement in the “Blurred Lines” Case

It is required to analytically describe a court case for copyright infringement in the case of the song “Blurred Lines”. In 2015, Pharrell Williams was found guilty of stealing musical material, as the composition clearly contained elements of a Marvin Gaye song. Initially, the prosecution proved its claims, which required two aspects to substantiate: access and similarity. The author accused of plagiarism must have potentially had access to the song and the songs themselves must show similarities. Although the songs seem similar, it must be kept in mind that the recontextualization of the material may, in fact, be its transformation beyond recognition, which removes legal obligations from the authors.

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Approaching the comparison of songs from a subjective standard, it does not seem possible to talk about the substantive similarity of the songs. In 2015, the court awarded the Gaye side $5 million – initially, Pharrell Williams was accused of copyright infringement, but in 2021 the charges were dropped. Despite the similar sound of the instrumentation used in the tracks, the songs differ in chord progressions and vocal melodies – these are different songs despite the obvious similarity. Pharrell’s claim that he reverse-engineered the song “Got to Give It Up” was used in court as an argument against the producer. Pharrell may have been referring to an attempt to re-create and update Gaye’s song, which cannot be taken as a real attempt at plagiarism. Given that the substance of the song is its melody and not the groove, which was borrowed, Pharrell cannot be accused of stealing the material.

One can understand the judge’s initial decision based on the obvious fact of access to the material – Williams, as a soul musician, could not help but hear Gaye’s music. Moreover, the songs are similar in their basis, which is the rhythm and sound of the instruments. However, the presence of the original melody, production decisions, and innovations is still confirms the original authorship of Pharrell and Robin Thicke over the song. Initially, the court made a wrong decision, as “Blurred Lines” transformed the original basis of Marvin Gaye’s song and created original material.

Works Cited

Langford, Jackson. “Court Finds Pharrell Williams Didn’t Commit Perjury in ‘Blurred Lines’ Case.” New Musical Express, Web.

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StudyCorgi. 2023. "Copyright Infringement in the “Blurred Lines” Case." January 9, 2023. https://studycorgi.com/copyright-infringement-in-the-blurred-lines-case/.

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StudyCorgi. (2023) 'Copyright Infringement in the “Blurred Lines” Case'. 9 January.

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