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Court sides with Marvin Gaye family in 'Blurred Lines' fight against Thicke, Williams

by Associated Press /
Singer Pharrell Williams and singer Robin Thicke perform together at the Walmart annual shareholders meeting on June 6, 2014 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.Rick Wilking / Reuters file

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LOS ANGELES — A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a copyright infringement verdict against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams over the 2013 hit song "Blurred Lines."

In a split decision from a three-judge panel, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals awarded $5.3 million to the family of Marvin Gaye, who said "Blurred Lines" is illegally copied from the late soul singer's "Got to Give it Up."

Two judges from the panel of three rejected the defense's request to overturn a jury verdict or order a new trial, saying that Gaye's copyright on the song is entitled to broad protection. They accepted a trial court judge's instructing the jury to decide based only on the sheet music to the songs, and not the recordings.

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Dissenting Judge Jacqueline Nguyen offered a harsh dissent, saying that the songs resemble each other only in style not substance and that the decision was detrimental to the future of artists and creativity.

"The majority allows the Gayes to accomplish what no one has before: copyright a musical style," Nguyen wrote. "'Blurred Lines' and 'Got to Give It Up' are not objectively similar. They differ in melody, harmony, and rhythm. Yet by refusing to compare the two works, the majority establishes a dangerous precedent that strikes a devastating blow to future musicians and composers everywhere."

Howard King, an attorney for Williams and Thicke, seized on Nguyen's comments.

"We stand by the fact that these are two entirely different songs," King said in an email to The Associated Press. "The thorough and well-reasoned dissenting judge's opinion is compelling and enhances the prospects for success in a further review by the Court of Appeals."

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An email to Gaye family's attorney Richard S. Busch wasn't immediately returned.

The trial over "Blurred Lines," the biggest hit of 2013, ended in March 2015 with jurors awarding Gaye's family more than $7 million. The verdict was later trimmed to $5.3 million.

The Gaye family also received 50 percent interest in ongoing royalties from the song.

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