blurred lines of copyright infringement

Based information from this article apparently Robin Thicke is being accused of copyright infringement by the family of Marvin Gaye. According to the article Thicke’s chart-topping hit “Blurred Lines” has reminiscent beats per minute of Gay’s hit “Got to Give It Up.” After listening to the two songs you can definitely hear the similarities. But the aforementioned article quotes long-time radio personality Everette Cork, a “’ great majority of the music that capture the ears of today music lovers, captivates because it samples the beats of songs that will forever be pleasant to listen and dance to.’” I have heard plenty of songs that sound similar to one another—the song that comes on the radio and once you start singing along you realize you’re not, it’s not even close to the song your brain thought it was.

Robin Thicke received a letter from the Gaye family before they decided to press charges. According to another source they still haven’t pressed charges. Thick, Pharrell Williams and T.I. have claimed in a six-page suit that there is no copyright infringement. But it is obvious that the Gaye family is just sitting at home patiently waiting for their lawyers to finish conducting an investigation and gathers information that will aid them in their inevitable suit against the three men.

The law that is in question can be seen from this link This particular law is about sound recordings and music videos. In the case of Robin Thicke, clearly the sound portion of the law is what applies. If a court finds the similarities close enough to constitute a copyright infringement then the Gaye family could monetarily benefit from all the CDs, iTunes singles and albums, and even emotional damages, if any. This seems like a purely profitable venture for the Gaye family. I cannot imagine there was any “emotional distress.” Thicke offered to settle out of court but the family is obviously not willing.

During the time in which we live it is almost impossible to have an idea that is uniquely your own. During the time in which Kant lived he was saying the same about nonage. We must admit that are opinions are influenced by those around us before we can seek out our own. The fact that Thicke may have used the same beats per minute as one of the late Marvin Gaye seems like something that was bound to happen in not only the R&B genre, but also in every musical genre. It is 2013, there just aren’t that many more beat combinations that are pleasing to the ear. Kant said, “Nevertheless, this man does not violate the duties of a citizen if, as a scholar, he publicly expresses his objections to the impropriety or possible injustice of such levies.” By this he implies that the Gaye family has the right to argue for royalties and Thicke, Williams and T.I. have the right to argue against the desires of the Gaye family. The freedom Kant desires is the freedom to speak against, even if, at the end of the day, we must obey the law.

Milton might have been harsh on Thicke when looking at what he believes of the press in “Areopagitica.” Regarding press Milton wrote, “Those which otherwise come forth, if they be found mischievous and libellous, the fire and the executioner will be the timeliest and the most effectuall remedy, that mans prevention can use.” The argument that Milton puts forth is works should be published first, then the public could decided whether the work is acceptable and appropriate, which is the illustration of the market place of ideas. There is no way that Milton could have had an opinion on this topic of 2013 but if found guilty Milton would advise execution.

The Lessig reading provides just the argument for this particular scenario. The art is taken away by the copyright law. Marvin Gaye passed away in 1985. He had fame and fortune, maybe his family feels they should still reap the benefits of that. Robin Thicke attempted to settle out of court, which is where this should have ended. Thicke did not wish to bring any sort of harm to the Gaye family and probably mastered this beat without thinking twice about its similarities to other songs. The lyrics, the tone, the message is different, it is a whole separate piece of art and Thicke should not suffer for this mistake, his admitting fault should be enough for the Gaye family.


2 thoughts on “blurred lines of copyright infringement

  1. Haley,

    The first half of this response is terrific. Perfect! But, you need to go back to Milton and Kant and incorporate quotes from them. This will force you to step back a bit from the particulars of this case and think about what “freedom” means in different contexts, and how a question like copyright infringement relates to them. Of course Milton wouldn’t have an opinion about popular music, but what he says about books should inform how you interpret the case.

    Bottom line: Good work so far; needs more Milton and Kant.

    The revisions for this assignment must be completed by Sept 31. Good luck!


  2. “There is no way that Milton could have had an opinion on this topic of 2013 but if found guilty Milton would advise execution.” — Ha! You’re probably right that Milton would want to see all copies of “Blurred Lines” burned, and Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus to boot!

    Grade: S.


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