Music Industry

"Blurred Lines" and Marvin Gaye: Can You Copyright Cool?

When I first heard "Blurred Lines," I was driving in my car. I knew I'd heard it before, but I couldn't place the song. So I Shazamed it. Still nothing. I didn't recognize the title. About a half-an-hour later . . . Abracadabra! I remembered Marvin Gaye's extended groove, "Got to Give It Up." I replayed Gaye's song, and the similarities were obvious.

Robin Thicke and his cohorts, Pharrel and TI, recently filed a preemptive lawsuit to protect their song from Marvin Gaye's estate. ("The lady doth protest too much, methinks.") Thicke claims in a GQ article that he was 'influenced' by "Got to Give It Up," and that he was reproducing a 'sound' from an earlier era. Obviously.

My question is: Can you plagiarize a vibe, an attitude? Can you copyright cool? You can pose, be a poseur when you imitate, but can you get sued/lose money for that? Isn't this where most pop music comes from? Most bands I've watched grow have imitated their heros.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Cryer
Contact: Michael Cryer