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posted by LaminatorX on Friday March 13 2015, @03:48PM   Printer-friendly
from the let's-get-it-on dept.

The Washington Post reports that the $7.4 million verdict that Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke copied Marvin Gaye’s music to create their hit song “Blurred Lines” could ripple across the music industry, potentially changing how artists work and opening the door to new copyright claims. Howard King, lead attorney for Thicke and Williams, said in closing arguments that a verdict for the Gaye family would have a chilling effect on musicians trying to evoke an era or create an homage to the sound of earlier artists. Williams contended during the trial that he was only trying to mimic the “feel” of Gaye’s late 1970s music but insisted he did not use elements of his idol’s work. “Today’s successful verdict, with the odds more than stacked against the Marvin Gaye estate, could redefine what copyright infringement means for recording artists,” says Glen Rothstein, an intellectual property attorney. King says record labels are going to become more reluctant to release music that’s similar to other works—an assertion disputed by Richard Busch, the lead attorney for the Gaye family. “While Mr. Williams's lawyer suggested in his closing argument that the world would come to an end, and music would cease to exist if they were found liable, I still see the sun shining,” says Busch. “The music industry will go on.”

Music copyright trials are rare, but allegations that a song copies another artist’s work are common. Singers Sam Smith and Tom Petty recently reached an agreement that conferred songwriting credit to Petty on Smith’s song, “Stay With Me,” which resembled Petty’s hit “I Won’t Back Down.” Other music copyright cases include Former Beatle George Harrison's 1970 solo song "My Sweet Lord" which had a melody heavy with echoes of "He's So Fine," the 1962 hit from The Chiffons. The copyright owner sued Harrison. A judge said that while the tunes were nearly identical, Harrison was guilty only of "subconscious plagiarism." Harrison would eventually pay out $587,000. Probably the most bizarre case of musical infringement was when John Fogerty was accused of stealing from John Fogerty. The Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman was sued for his 1985 solo song "The Old Man Down the Road" because his former label thought it sounded too much like the 1970 Fogerty-penned "Run Through the Jungle," a song it owned the rights to.

 
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  • (Score: 2) by frojack on Friday March 13 2015, @05:42PM

    by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Friday March 13 2015, @05:42PM (#157370) Journal

    As I recall it was entirely about this; the stagnation of art through lengthening copyright.

    Hmmm, wouldn't endless copying of prior music be MORE of a stagnation?
    Wouldn't lengthening copyright work against stagnation?

    Not arguing for or against the length of copyrights here, just pointing out a flaw in the reasoning of the story you mention.

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  • (Score: 5, Informative) by tonyPick on Friday March 13 2015, @05:56PM

    by tonyPick (1237) on Friday March 13 2015, @05:56PM (#157374) Homepage Journal

    Hmmm, wouldn't endless copying of prior music be MORE of a stagnation?

    This would be true, if there were more than the 12 pitches in the chromatic scale, and the overwhelming majority of "new" music didn't use the four same chords.

    However the relatively small number of combinations (limited by what "sounds" acceptable, the standard 7-note or 5-note scales & modes, etc.) mean that it very quickly becomes impossible to come up with something which isn't a repetition of an earlier arrangement.

    See also: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pidokakU4I [youtube.com]

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 14 2015, @01:25AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 14 2015, @01:25AM (#157614)

      I'm thankful for this decision.
      Without it, popular music will soon all sound the same.

      Hat tip to David Letterman.
      Additional hat tip to Uncle Joe Benson and his Laughter At 45 After (a Laugh In-like segment at ~5:45PT).

      -- gewg_

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by The Archon V2.0 on Friday March 13 2015, @07:47PM

    by The Archon V2.0 (3887) on Friday March 13 2015, @07:47PM (#157413)

    > Hmmm, wouldn't endless copying of prior music be MORE of a stagnation?
    > Wouldn't lengthening copyright work against stagnation?

    Depends. Has West Side Story supplanted Romeo and Juliet? Does knowing that Rob Hubbard nicked a bit of Glass's "Koyaanisqatsi" make "Delta" any less of a classic chiptune? If you start singing "I Want a New Drug!" when everyone else in the carpool shouts "Ghostbusters!" at the radio, do they switch over without noticing? Why would someone read American Gods when they can just read a bunch of holy texts of assorted religions?

    There's a 1.3 TB torrent of FLACs out there consisting entirely of remixes of one composer's instrumental music. Some keep close to the source, some switch genres, some blend multiple songs either cleverly or clumsily, some add lyrics, some kinda go their own way, but it's all beholden to one source (which is in turn beholden to other sources). If it was all the same, would anyone go through the pain of downloading even part of it when they could just download the originals?

    There is a difference between something that's an honest but derivative product of culture and a soulless rehash. And yet, under the regime of copyright, we have been given yet another Spider-Man reboot.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Non Sequor on Saturday March 14 2015, @02:09AM

    by Non Sequor (1005) on Saturday March 14 2015, @02:09AM (#157623) Journal

    One of the surest of tests is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.

    --T.S. Eliot

    Remember that historically music operated heavily based on improvising using a library of standards as base material.

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