Friday, December 30, 2016

Legendary Songwriters Back Gaye Family In Legal Filing

A group of Hall of Fame songwriters filed a legal brief on Wednesday opposing a judge's ruling in the controversial "Blurred Lines" lawsuit, which they say hurts copyright protections for songs recorded before 1978, according to The Tennessean.

The "Blurred Lines" lawsuit pitted the family of rhythm and blues legend Marvin Gaye against pop stars Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, who are accused of copying elements of Gaye's hit "Got To Give It Up" without permission. The Gaye family won an initial jury verdict of $7.4 million, though a federal judge reduced the total to $5.3 million.

Thicke and Williams subsequently appealed, and a tangential issue has arisen: how songs recorded prior to 1978 are protected from copyright infringement. A federal judge ruled that the only elements of "Got To Give It Up" subject to federal copyright protections are those reflected on the lead sheet - a document filed with the U.S. Copyright Office. Gaye's attorneys, including Nashville-based Richard Busch, have argued that the lead sheet was a perfunctory document filed by an unnamed person.

They say the basis for copyright theft should hinge on the borrowed elements from the sound recording of "Got To Give It Up," and not the lead sheet. Thicke and Williams' attorneys argue the opposite. They say that the two songs feel similar, but that actual copyright theft did not take place. Thicke said in media interviews that "Blurred Lines" was inspired by "Got To Give It Up," but in legal filings he denied that he stole from "Got To Give It Up."

Songwriter Hall of Fame members Brian Holland, Eddie Holland, Sylvia Moy, David Porter and Valerie Simpson argue in their brief filed on Wednesday that Judge John A. Kronstadt's ruling on the lead sheet effectively disenfranchises writers of pre-78 songs. In total, 12 songwriters signed onto the amicus brief supporting the Gaye family.

Since 1978, the policy of the Copyright Office has been to accept sound recordings when registering the copyright for a song. The Gaye family argued in a filing last week that limiting the copyright protections for older songs to the lead sheet would empower unscrupulous contemporary songwriters to sift through old lead sheets and then steal any elements not listed there when writing new songs.

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