The children of the late Marvin Gaye responded today in US District Court to the lawsuit that was filed against them by Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris, Jr., according to Mark Levinsohn, the N.Y. entertainment attorney who represents Nona and Frankie Gaye in transactional matters.
In that initial suit, filed on Aug. 15, Thicke and his “Blurred Lines” collaborators sued to stop any claims they thought the children of Marvin Gaye may or would have against their intentional copyright infringement of the Marvin Gaye song “Got to Give it Up.” As Zoe Chace for National Public Radio stated on the NPR website on August 19, 2013: “Robin Thicke’s Song Sounds Like Marvin Gaye. So He’s Suing Gaye’s Family.”
The “Blurred Lines” trio rushed to file their case soon after their song began attracting overwhelming attention from critics and fans about the substantial similarities that agents for the family say surpass the realm of coincidence to “Got to Give it Up.” On Aug. 8 Rob Hoerburger in the New York Times wrote “But what I keep coming back to is the song’s choice DNA…And that bass line came right from Marvin Gaye’s No. 1 hit from the summer of ’77, ‘Got to Give It Up’.”
In the August 23, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, Contributor David Ritz wrote, “When I first heard Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines,’ my reaction was the same as millions of other R&B fans: Hey, that’s Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to Give It Up.’ Thicke and company not only copped Gaye’s distinct bass line, but the defining funk of the cowbell accents. I wasn’t entirely surprised, since some years earlier Thicke’s ‘Love After War’ was a virtual lift of Marvin’s ‘After the Dance’ …” A quick review of the internet reveals these comments are far from alone in this respect.
Indeed, the three writers filed their lawsuit against Gaye’s children shortly after the numerous “Got to Give it Up” similarities started surfacing and just weeks after all the online chat rooms were abuzz with discussions of the two songs, including fan postings of musical mash-ups that demonstrated the overlapping comparisons, says a release. As music critic Paul Cantor pointed out on Vice Magazine’s website in July 2013, “You probably don’t feel guilty for liking ‘Blurred Lines.’ Maybe that’s because it was originally a Marvin Gaye song (“Got To Give It Up”) and Marvin Gaye is … awesome.”
Initially Gaye’s children assumed that Thicke and Williams had obtained the proper license from EMI/SONY to use their father’s song “Got to Give it Up,” but they were mistaken.
Although representatives for the parties had ongoing discussions about the copying and possibility of a settlement, there was never any monetary offer made by Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams or their representatives to the Gaye family for use of the copyright, as erroneously reported by Billboard Magazine in August 2013. Instead, Thicke decided to wage a very contradictory public denial about his creative intentions and file a preemptive strike against any claims by the family. On July 9, he told Billboard Magazine, “Pharrell and I were in the studio making a couple records, and then on the third day I told him I wanted to do something kinda like Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got To Give It Up,’ that kind of feel ’cause it’s one of my favorite songs of all time. So he started messing with some drums and then he started going ‘Hey, hey hey..’ and about an hour and a half later we had the whole record finished.” However, by September 2013 Thicke back peddled and did a one-eighty, telling TMZ that even though he’s a big fan of Marvin Gaye, the Motown legend is not in his head when he writes songs, including “Blurred Lines.”
When Gaye’s children raised their concerns to EMI/SONY, they were told that no license was granted, nor was any license needed, says the release.
The initial lawsuit filed by the “Blurred Lines” writers not only asks that any copyright infringement claims be rejected, but also challenges the family to prove that they (and not their publisher) have the right to sue. According to the Gaye children, “EMI/SONY publishes and administers our father’s catalog so contractually, it would be for them to file the countersuit. However, when we requested that they take action, they refused. They also refused to assign to us the right to file for ourselves.”
It was because of this and other factors outlined in the countersuit that the family says it is reluctantly suing EMI/SONY for breach of contract and failing to perform their fiduciary duties. Coincidently EMI/SONY also represents Pharrell Williams.
“We have put a lot of effort into this matter, investigated it thoroughly, and believe we have a strong case,” says Richard S. Busch of Nashville and San Diego-based King & Ballow, who is litigation counsel for the Gaye children. He adds, “The counterclaim and court filing speak for themselves, and I look forward to presenting this case to the court and ultimately to a jury who will be able to listen to the songs themselves.”