Copyright Infringement or Mere Inspiration?

Remember when attorneys for Robin Thicke and Pharrell filed a lawsuit which was basically a preemptive strike against the Estate of Marvin Gaye on the issue of whether the song “Blurred Lines” infringed on  Mr. Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up“?  Well, it didn’t have the effect that the plaintiffs envisioned – the defendant, the Estate of Mr. Gaye, ended up with a $5.3 Million judgment on a counterclaim for copyright infringement against the plaintiffs.

That trial court judgment has been made final, which is the triggering event for the non-prevailing party’s ability to appeal.  Not surprisingly, Thicke & Pharell have appealed the trial court’s decision and now the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will get to decide the issue of whether copyright infringement occurred or if “Got to Give It Up” serves as mere inspiration for the Thicke/Pharrell songwriting team.  There real issue in the case, the appellee argue, is that all songwriting is inspired by creative works from the past.  Inspiration and infringement are not the same thing.

Interestingly – a massive group of songwriters (212 to be precise) have filed an amicus brief in support of Pharell and Thicke’s position.  Citing that the trial court’s ruling will have a chilling effect on songwriters, the amicus brief argues that the trial court’s ruling should be overturned.  You can read the amicus brief here.   Not every day that you see the names of the members of Tool, Weezer, R. Kelly, Jennifer Hudson, Hot Chelle Rae, and Jason Mraz in the same place.  This will be interesting to watch unfold.  Stay tuned.