News September 1, 2016

Over 200 artists get behind ’Blurred Lines’ appeal

Charts & New Music Editor
Over 200 artists get behind ’Blurred Lines’ appeal

A diverse and resolute group of artists have filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the bid to overturn the Blurred Lines judgement.

212 artists, producers and composers including Hans Zimmer, Jason Mraz, Brian Burton (Danger Mouse), Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, Curt Smith of Tears for Fears, as well as all the comprising members of legendary bands Linkin Park, Tool and The Go-Go’s have stepped forward to make their collective voice heard.

They’re defending the bid by Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke and rapper T.I (Clifford Harris Jr.) to overturn the US$5.3 million (AU$7 million) final judgment passed down to them in March over claims of copyright infringement of Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit song Got To Give It Up.

The original court case began three years ago when Williams, Thicke and Harris Jr. sort legal action to protect their summer hit Blurred Lines after Marvin Gaye’s family and Bridgeport Music filled a lawsuit against the trio for “notable musical similarities” to at least two of Funkadelic’s songs, including Gaye’s Got To Give It Up. 

The 212 artists’ amicus brief was created to defend creative expression; it expresses concern for the devastating aftermath of setting such a precedent. 

The amicus brief, which was filed on to the Ninth Circuit on Tuesday in the US, follows on from a comprehensive and compelling justification by Williams, Thicke and Harris Jr.’s attorneys. The filing with a district court in the US on August 24 points to other cases, particularly that of Led Zeppelins’ Stairway To Heaven, in which the jury held a non-infringement verdict in relation to correctly filtering out unprotected material in popular music.

The attorney’s argued that “there [Stairway To Heaven case], unlike here, the district court identified specific musical elements that were not protected by the plaintiff’s copyright (e.g., ‘descending chromatic scales, arpeggios or short sequences of three notes’), and directed the jury to ‘disregard’ such elements in assessing similarity.”

Similarly, the artists’ amicus brief, authored by Ed McPherson on behalf of the sizable group, contends the judgement by noting the potential crippling creative effects of misjudging “permissible inspiration” and “unlawful copying”.

The amici argue their concern about the “potential adverse impact on their own creativity, on the creativity of future artists, and on the music industry in general, if the judgment in this case is allowed to stand,” states the report to the Ninth Circuit.

“Such a result, if allowed to stand, is very dangerous to the music community, is certain to stifle future creativity, and ultimately does a disservice to past songwriters as well,” they add. “One can only imagine what our music would have sounded like if David Bowie would have been afraid to draw from Shirley Bassie, or if the Beatles would have been afraid to draw from Chuck Berry, or if Elton John would have been afraid to draw from the Beatles, or if Elvis Presley would have been afraid to draw from his many influences.” 

On 30 August, 10 musicologists filed their own separate amicus brief in support of the creators of Blurred Lines. The brief will also be inspected by the Ninth Circuit. Authored by Kenneth Freundlich, the report methodically fixates its argument on the theoretical aspect of the music, citing “no genuine disagreement among experts as to the fact that there is no harmonic similarity between BLURRED and GIVE because the chord progressions in both works were entirely different”.

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