'Blurred Lines' Legal Battle: Marvin Gaye's Family Rejected Robin Thicke's Six-Figure Offer
Thicke's team proposed a sizable settlement before suing to quash claims of copyright infringement.
Billboard has learned that Robin Thicke's team offered a six-figure sum to members of Marvin Gaye's family in order to preempt a copyright infringement showdown, but the family turned it down.
According to knowledgeable sources, the settlement offer came after Frankie Christian Gaye, Marvin Gaye III and Nona Marvisa Gaye accused Thicke of plagiarizing "Got to Give It Up" -- written and composed by Marvin Gaye, who died in 1984 -- to create his "Blurred Lines" hit single.
Subsequently, Thicke, along with "Blurred Lines" co-writers Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris Jr., filed a lawsuit on Aug. 15 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles requesting a ruling that "Blurred Lines" does not infringe on "Got to Give It Up." It also requested a similar judgment with regard to another accusation, by Bridgeport Music Inc., that "Blurred Lines" infringed on George Clinton's "Sexy Ways."
Bridgeport and the Gaye family's attorney, Richard Busch, did not return calls requesting comment. Thicke's law firm, King Holmes Paterno & Berliner, declined to comment.
In an interview with TMZ, Gaye's son, Marvin Gaye III said, "We’re not happy with the way that he went about doing business, let alone suing us for something where he clearly got his inspiration from at the least."
During an interview with GQ magazine in May about his career and the making of "Blurred Lines," Thicke said, "one of my favorite songs of all time was Marvin Gaye's 'Got to Give It Up.' I was like, 'Damn, we should make something like that, something with that groove.' Then he started playing a little something and we literally wrote the song in about a half hour and recorded it. The whole thing was done in a couple hours."
Thicke's lawsuit said the "intent in producing 'Blurred Lines' was to evoke an era. In reality, the Gaye defendants are claiming ownership of an entire genre. … The reality is that the songs themselves are starkly different."
We asked Ron Sadoff, a professor at New York University's Steinhardt School and director of programs in scoring for film and multimedia and songwriting at Steinhardt's Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions, for his opinion.
"Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' may have been inspired by Marvin Gaye's 'Got to Give It Up,' but the songs' respective 'touch and feel,' as well as their use of structural musical materials, are common to many popular songs," Sadoff said. "From a musicological perspective, the songs share even less similarities in terms of their use of structural materials such as melody and harmony. 'Blurred Lines' is composed squarely within the major mode, while 'Got to Give It Up' revolves around the blues scale. In this key area of melodic content, there doesn't appear to be evidence that would suggest plagiarism on the part of Robin Thicke."