The copyright infringement battle between Marvin Gaye’s family and Robin Thicke just took an interesting turn as the judge in the case backtracked on a key issue as the Gaye family is pushing for an appeal.
The Gaye family’s latest claims in the case are suggesting that nearly everyone in the music industry has a stake in the upcoming trial as the judge considers whether or not the family will be allowed to play Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” for the jury.
It’s a key issue considering the fact that the entire case is centered around the similarities between “Got to Give It Up” and “Blurred Lines.”
The case stems from a legal battle that Thicke, along with super producer Pharrell Williams, launched last year against the Gaye family.
Thicke and Williams sued first in an attempt to win judicial relief that the smash hit was not an infringement.
In October they failed to win the case on summary judgment, but that’s when the judge first made that controversial key decision to prohibit the Gaye family from playing “Got to Give It Up” in court.
U.S. District Judge John Kronstadt ruled that that family couldn’t use Gaye’s recording to prevent any prejudice against Thicke and Williams.
The judge also ruled that because the actual “Got to Give It Up” sound recording wasn’t deposited with the Copyright Office back in the 1970s, the copyright protections were limited to “elements expressed in the sheet music conditions.”
The Gaye family insisted that it would be nearly impossible to move forward with the case without being allowed to let the jury hear both songs and witness just how similar they were.
In fact, in most copyright infringement cases, comparing both of the songs in court is an essential part of the trial process.
On Wednesday afternoon it seemed like the judge gave the decision some more thought and he moved to backtrack on the initial ruling.
He offered up a new suggestion for how to move forward with the trial without presenting unprotected elements of the music but also allowing the family to better portray “evidence of intrinsic similarity.”
He suggested that the Gaye family create a new version of the original tune but stripped it of any unprotected elements that were not present in the sheet music, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
With some special instructions to the jury, they would also be allowed to play the tune with Gaye’s original singing.
Since the family had already prepared edited versions of the tracks as potential evidence, the judge said they clearly had the means to produce a version of the record that would take away unprotected elements in the song.
Even with the new decision, however, the Gaye family wasn’t pleased.
According to the family, the judge’s interpretation of copyright laws is not only detrimental to their case but it could be a slippery slope for the entire music industry.
“The law is clear that a plaintiff suing for copyright infringement under the 1909 Copyright Act need only produce a copyright registration identifying a work as published,” the filing said. “As long as the work is properly registered, the registration covers not only the composition as reflected by the deposit copy, but also other versions of the composition that existed at the time of registration.”
If the judge does rule in a way that suggests the recorded version of the music does not have much protection, the Gaye family says it would “create dangerous and potentially devastating precedent to the owners of such intellectual property,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Richard Busch, the Gaye family’s attorney, is urging the judge to reconsider the decision in order to prevent would-be infringers from using sheet music from popular classic hits to figure out what elements they could take from the songs and jeopardize the overall protection of such intellectual property.
There has been no response to the filings as of yet.