Tag Archives: Rant

Robin Thicke Verdict Sets a Dangerous Precedent for Creators

marvin-gaye-robin-thicke

I don’t like Robin Thicke and I’m not a fan of his music. But I’m upset that he lost the recent case against the Marvin Gaye estate for supposed copyright infringement with Blurred Lines. This sets a dangerous precedent for music creators.

Composers and songwriters have been borrowing musical elements from each other since antiquity. Medieval and Renaissance composers wrote polyphonic motets based on well known chants (referred to as cantus firmus). Classical and Romantic composers wrote entire pieces based on themes written by their colleagues. And early rock-and-roll borrowed form and harmony from the 12-bar blues.

That’s why song copyright typically covered just the melody and lyrics. You couldn’t copyright instrumentation, key signatures, chords, chord progressions, tempos, time signatures, or a groove; otherwise composers wouldn’t be able to legally write anything at all. In the case of Blurred Lines only the instrumentation and groove were borrowed from Got To Give It Up. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

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