Many people, myself included, were astounded by Robin Thicke
's audacious 'borrowing' for their smash hit, "Blurred Lines." Before news of the track's similarities to the Marvin Gaye classic, "Got To Give It Up," surfaced, however, I admittedly didn't make the connection. I had heard the latter maybe once years ago, but it wasn't fresh in my mind by a long shot. When YouTube comparisons began to pop up, I couldn't believe my ears. How could such talented, high-profile artists make a tactical error of that magnitude? The only logical explanation of course is that Pharrell and Thicke assumed the Gaye family would let it slide or, even more outlandishly, figured the offense would go unnoticed. Whatever their original intentions were, the offenders had their day in court. And now, like the annoying kid in a children's game of freeze tag, they're calling for a re-do. Unfortunately, neither parties' actions in this debacle have served to progress the music industry's severe lack of legal precedent in this department, therefore they are both inductees in this week's Hall Of Shame.
The Gaye camp's original beef with "Blurred Lines" is certainly legitimate; musically, the two tracks are near identical. That being said, Marvin Gaye wasn't talking about his dick being so big that it will "tear your ass in two," or at the very least he was polite about it. And if Pharrell and Thicke were that passionate about their track, they could have just released it as a cover; most laypeople these days wouldn't have known the difference anyway. Their issue with that was clearly that cover-law prohibits altering the original lyrics, which would have barred the inclusion of poetic flattery like, "You the hottest bitch in this place" (I've tried that line and for some reason it never works). The act of irreverently releasing the song, similarities and all, was a disservice to the music industry and a move that could only help perpetuate the larger issues that plague rights and royalties.
The judgement against the "Blurred Lines" crew minus T.I., however, was disproportionately severe. If the $7.4 million secured by the Gaye family is in fact double Pharrell's profits from the song, then the original case was a crucifixion and Pharrell was the bald-headed, beat-making Jesus Christ of the music industry. That, in turn, makes today a sort of Easter, in that he who died for the music industry's sins has risen... to suggest a penalty of less than $680,000, that is. And since the ruling was that "5% of the original composition" was copied, that figure seems legitimate to me. Once again, however, this counter does nothing for the larger issue at hand, and is a purely selfish maneuver.
What we need is one of those supreme court cases you learn about in 6th grade social studies that sticks with you forever. Remember Marbury V. Madison? And how about the unforgettable Roe V. Wade? I couldn't tell you one fact about either of these landmark legal occurrences, but I'd sooner forget my own name than forget one of those two. "Thicke V. Gaye" has a wonderful ring to it, and would most certainly establish some semblance of guidelines for appropriate conduct and monetary compensation in situations like this. But if we're not going to use this situation to 'un-blur' the lines between homage and plagiarism, it will remain merely another sad example of musician on musician crime.
Revisit the absurdity at the center of the legal trouble below.