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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 CirclesInSand on Friday March 13 2015, @06:13PM

    by CirclesInSand (2899) on Friday March 13 2015, @06:13PM (#157385)

    How is this a point? Are you suggesting that changing 1 bit should make copying legal? Otherwise, what objective standard do you have for deciding what is copying and what isn't? This is one of the biggest problems with copy law, it can't be made objective. "Limit it" you say, but have you actually thought about it?

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Zinho on Friday March 13 2015, @07:23PM

    by Zinho (759) on Friday March 13 2015, @07:23PM (#157405)

    Are you suggesting that changing 1 bit should make copying legal? Otherwise, what objective standard do you have for deciding what is copying and what isn't?

    You make a good point, but we're at the opposite end of the pendulum swing from that position. Previously courts had held that four sequential notes in sequence constituted infringement; in other words, the entire rest of the song is different, but because four notes are the same and in the same order then the new song infringes. With this ruling there are not even two consecutive notes in common between the songs, and infringement was held due to them being the same style. This is the polar opposite of your example, where the tunes are identical except for one dissimilar note.

    There's a balance to be struck between protecting the rights of the original creator and allowing space for others to be inspired by the original. Your example was one of nearly zero protection for the original artist, the current situation provides zero protection for new artists. Lots of thought goes into this, and there are valid interests on both sides. I'd expect that as a society we'd swing back and forth between the two positions, and with this ruling many people are seeing that we've hit a hard stop, there's virtually nowhere further to go for protection the original artist.

    The way I see it there's been too much push for protection of the original artist, and there will probably be a lot of push now in the opposite direction; I expect to see the pendulum bounce back a bit. It will be interesting to see the way society and the music industry proceeds from here. I expect that the studio execs would like to just glue the pendulum to the wall where it sits now, but I can't really see that happening. If it does, it will do a lot of damage to our culture and the new generation of musicians.

    "Space Exploration is not endless circles in low earth orbit." -Buzz Aldrin
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Hairyfeet on Friday March 13 2015, @09:58PM

    by Hairyfeet (75) <> on Friday March 13 2015, @09:58PM (#157520) Journal

    The problem we are discussing here is that there are only twelve notes in the western musical scale and some combos? Just aren't pleasing to the ear. So if we take this ruling to its logical conclusion then its almost certain that every pleasing combination has already been copyrighted so you can pretty much give up new artists making a thin dime as they will get sued because a bridge sounds like some song 40 years ago or their chorus sounds like a tune some band you never heard of wrote in 1972. And what they were busted of is true of damned near every band, listen to U2's "Vertigo" and then play "sex type thing" by STP. Is it the exact same notes? Nope but neither was this, but it has the same "feel".

    Remember folks this does jack and shit for "the artists" as unlike this case more than 75% of major label music of the last century is owned by the corps, so all this will do is give yet another advantage to the corporate gatekeepers that have been feeding us shitty "artists" while trying to fuck over anybody that won't play ball. Has anybody here seen a standard corporate record contract? I have and loan sharks offer better deals, in fact some friends of mine had to disband and throw two albums worth of good music in the garbage because of how badly they got fucked by your standard record contract. I believe it was the producer Steve Albini who said to the effect "The modern recording business is forcing kids to fight each other through a ditch filled with shit and dirty needles only for the company to mug them when they make it out the end".

    Anything that tilts it more in their favor? BAD ruling.

    ACs are never seen so don't bother. Always ready to show SJWs for the racists they are.
    • (Score: 2) by gidds on Sunday March 15 2015, @11:28PM

      by gidds (589) on Sunday March 15 2015, @11:28PM (#158144)

      there are only twelve notes in the western musical scale

      True, but mostly irrelevant in my opinion.  After all, there are only 26 letters in the English alphabet; does that mean that all books, scripts, and poems are trivial?

      Black-and-white drawings are made up of only 2 colours!  Does that make them trivial too?

      And ultimately all digital media is 1s and 0s...

      No; it's not the component parts that make a work creative, but the way they're put together.  And (depending on your exact parameters) there are infinitely many ways of doing that.)

      [sig redacted]
      • (Score: 2) by tonyPick on Monday March 16 2015, @09:53AM

        by tonyPick (1237) on Monday March 16 2015, @09:53AM (#158284) Homepage Journal

        True, but mostly irrelevant in my opinion. After all, there are only 26 letters in the English alphabet; does that mean that all books, scripts, and poems are trivial?

        Nope, but if we decided any four letters in the same order with the same spacing as had been used before made a copy, or as in this case then we thought that despite not having copied or quoted any of the original just having a similar style or feel was enough, then we'd run out of original works real fast. Which is the place we're getting to in music.

        The problem I see here isn't about how original (or not) these things are, but the impact on people trying to create new things.