A US jury ordered pop stars Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to pay more than $7 million in damages to Marvin Gaye’s family, ruling the pair copied his music in writing their 2013 mega-hit “Blurred Lines”.
The eight-member California panel, which had been deliberating since last week, found that the pop stars lifted parts of Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up”.
“I’m so filled with emotion that it’s hard to get the words out,” said Gaye’s daughter Nona, hailing the “miracle” verdict.
The family took legal action “because he (Marvin) can’t do it for himself,” she added.
Gaye family lawyer Richard Busch said he plans to seek an injunction blocking future sales of “Blurred Lines”, which was a worldwide hit.
Neither Williams nor Thicke, who had both testified during the trial, were in court to hear the verdict.
But a spokeswoman for Williams said: “While we respect the judicial process, we are extremely disappointed in the ruling made today, which sets a horrible precedent for music and creativity going forward.
“Pharrell created ‘Blurred Lines’ from his heart, mind and soul, and the song was not taken from anyone or anywhere else. We are reviewing the decision and considering our options,” she added in a statement.
The Gaye heirs had sought a portion of the nearly $16.5 million in profits that the hit party song has reaped since its release two years ago.
The jury awarded about $4 million in damages, plus roughly $3.4 million in profits.
– Controversial hit –
Evidence presented in court suggested that Thicke and Williams each earned more than $5 million from the success of the record.
“Blurred Lines” was the biggest-selling song of 2013 in the United States, selling a total of 6.5 million copies, according to Billboard.
During the two-week trial, Williams said he understood why fans connected the two songs, but explained: “Soul music sounds like soul music… I must’ve been channeling that late ’70s feeling.”
The Gaye estate had said that “Blurred Lines” copied elements of the 1970s track. The two sides brought in music experts who dissected the structures of the two songs to debate the merits of the claim.
The jury cleared rapper Clifford “T.I.” Harris Jr. — who collaborated with the pair on the song, and made more than $700,000 from it — of any wrongdoing.
At the time the Gaye song was copyrighted, only written music — not sound recordings — could be registered with the copyright office.
Although jurors saw the “Blurred Lines” video and heard the song, they were told to only consider the chords, melodies and lyrics of the songs, rather than production elements.
The federal lawsuit was originally filed two years ago by the “Blurred Lines” stars as a preemptive legal strike to protect the song from claims that it was derived from the decades-old Gaye hit.
The Gaye family filed counterclaims alleging that Thicke’s fascination with the soul icon led to the misappropriation of his work in “Blurred Lines” and in the title track of Thicke’s 2011 album “Love After War.”
Long before the trial, “Blurred Lines” was controversial.
The song contains the refrain “I hate these blurred lines / I know you want it” and has been condemned by critics who say the lyrics refer to the issue of sexual consent.
The video features naked women parading before Thicke.
Gaye was shot and killed by his father on the eve of his 45th birthday in 1984, leaving behind a remarkable string of hits — led by “Let’s Get It On”, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Sexual Healing” — that remain pop, funk and soul classics.