Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Earth Wind and Fire, R. Kelly, Jennifer Hudson Support 'Blurred Lines' Appeal

Written by Jon Blistein — Tool, Rivers Cuomo, R. Kelly, Danger Mouse and members of Earth, Wind & Fire have signed an amicus brief supporting Pharrell and Robin Thicke's appeal in the "Blurred Lines" copyright case, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

In total, 212 musicians attached their names to the brief, including John Oates, Linkin Park, Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump, film composer Hans Zimmer, Tears for Fears' Curt Smith, Juicy J, the Go-Go's, Frank Ocean collaborator Malay, Jennifer Hudson, Train's Patrick Monahan, the production duo Stargate, Aloe Blacc, Jean Baptiste and Kiesza.

The brief lays out the concerns many artists have voiced since a Los Angeles jury determined that "Blurred Lines" essentially ripped off Marvin Gaye's 1977 hit "Got to Give It Up." While the Gaye family was awarded $5.3 million in damages and 50 percent of royalties from "Blurred Lines," the ruling also set a new precedent for copyright cases.

As the amicus brief notes, "Blurred Lines" and "Got to Give It Up" have completely different melodies and song structures, and do not share any lyrics or "a sequence of even two chords played in the same order and for the same duration." Yet the court ruled that "Blurred Lines" significantly aped the vibe of "Got to Give It Up," something that had previously been beyond copyright protection.

"The verdict in this case threatens to punish songwriters for creating new music that is inspired by prior works," reads the brief, which was written by attorney Ed McPherson. "All music shares inspiration from prior musical works, especially within a particular musical genre. By eliminating any meaningful standard for drawing the line between permissible inspiration and unlawful copying, the judgment is certain to stifle creativity and impede the creative process. The law should provide clearer rules so that songwriters can know when the line is crossed, or at least where the line is."

The brief goes on to warn of the potential repercussions the "Blurred Lines" decision could have on the future creativity by looking at past pop inspirations: "One can only imagine what our music would have sounded like if David Bowie would have been afraid to draw from Shirley Bassey, or if the Beatles would have been afraid to draw from Chuck Berry, or if Elton John would have been afraid to draw from the Beatles, or if Elvis Presley would have been afraid to draw from his many influences."

Pharrell, Thicke and T.I. (who was found not liable in the original ruling) filed their appeal last week. Their opening brief focused specifically on disparities in copyright law, noting that Gaye filed the sheet music for "Got to Give It Up" with the Copyright Office before a legislative change made sound recordings protectable under copyright law. The "Blurred Lines" writers asserted that based on the sheet music alone, the trial should have never happened; yet at both the summary judgment and trial, elements of the "Got to Give It Up" sound recording were taken into account by the judge and jury.

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