Judge cuts $7.4 million 'Blurred Lines' copyright award to Gaye family

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 15, 2015 11:19 AM

By Andrew Chung

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Tuesday cut a copyright infringement verdict by more than $2 million against recording stars Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams over their 2013 smash hit "Blurred Lines," but offered Marvin Gaye's heirs a 50 percent royalty on future earnings from the song.

A federal jury in Los Angeles had sided with Gaye's estate in March, finding that parts of his 1977 hit "Got to Give it Up" were copied by Thicke and Williams for their R&B chart-topper. The jury awarded $7.4 million in damages and profits.

The case has transfixed the music world because it raised questions as to when a song can be considered plagiarized and when it merely serves as inspiration.

U.S. District Judge John Kronstadt in Los Angeles said on Tuesday the amount was "excessive," based on the evidence presented in the case. He pared back the total to $5.3 million.

Kronstadt denied a bid by Gaye's heirs to stop distribution of "Blurred Lines," instead ordering they be paid an ongoing 50 percent royalty of the song's revenues.

Though the jury had cleared rapper T.I. in the case, even though he had contributed to the song, Kronstadt ruled on Tuesday that he was also liable for infringement.

The lawyer for Gaye's heirs, Richard Busch, said in a statement the family was thrilled with most of the decision but is reviewing its options on the judge's trimming of damages.

"The Gaye family was protecting the legacy of their father/husband and I could not be happier for them," he said.

An attorney for Thicke and Williams could not immediately be reached.

Williams acknowledged in court he had been a fan of Gaye's music since childhood, but said "Blurred Lines" and "Got to Give it Up" were similar in genre only.

The suit cited magazine interviews given by Thicke in which he admitted drawing on Gaye's song when producing and recording his own song.

Thicke said later in sworn statements he was high on painkillers and alcohol when "Blurred Lines" became a hit and that he exaggerated his contribution to writing the song.

Gaye, whose hits included "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," was fatally shot by his father in 1984 at age 44.

The case is Pharrell Williams et al v. Bridgeport Music Inc et al, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, No. 13-cv-6004.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Bill Rigby)