It was an interesting week for two of my favorite topics: art and law.
On Tuesday, a federal jury in Los Angeles ruled that “Blurred Lines,” the 2013 hit song by Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke, infringed upon Marvin Gaye’s 1977 track, “Got to Give it Up.”
The Internet sort of freaked out.
On one side, you had people who were happy with the verdict simply because they don’t like Thicke/Williams/”Blurred Lines.” On the other side, you had people claiming this was the end of pop music.
A bit melodramatic, if you ask me.
The fear is that there are only so many notes, and from those notes only so many chord progressions that sit well with our Western ears (side note: You cannot copyright a chord progression). Because “Blurred Lines” and “Got to Give it Up” are not just similar in melody or lyrics, but in the “groove” as well, people are worried this decision by the jury is going to have a chilling effect on pop song writers who might be afraid of getting sued if they draw inspiration from another song’s style.
That’s probably not going to happen.
In order to win a copyright infringement case like this, the original copyright holder must prove a couple things: 1) that the alleged infringer had access to the original song (We know Thicke and Williams did because they have admitted in interview that “Got to Give it Up” provided inspiration for “Blurred Lines”), and 2) that the essence of the original song was infringed upon. In this case, the rhythm/groove of “Got to Give it Up” is what the tune is known for, so Williams and Thicke using such a similar groove is a problem.
There are all kinds of fun little details in copyright law, like the “fair use” exception which allows a person to use or repurpose copyrighted material (as in educational settings or to create a parody; this is easier to claim when the alleged infringer hasn’t made any money off of the derivative work).
I could go on all day. You probably don’t want me to.
The point is: This is not the first copyright infringement case the plaintiff has won, and it won’t be the last. Countless cases like this have happened, but because most are settled out of court, we don’t really hear about how common they are.
I promise pop music won’t be killed by “Blurred Lines.”
Check out a Stage of Life Theatre original music event, “The Giving Tree,” based on the beloved children’s book by Shel Silverstein. Interwoven with poems from “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” it was adapted for the stage by Jennifer Michaud, with original music and lyrics by Matt Haslett, both valley locals. The show is at 7 p.m. today and tomorrow and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for kids 12 and younger and $15 for adults and can be purchased at http://www.soltheatrecompany.com/tickets.
Guitarist Diego Figueiredo will host a guitar workshop at 3 p.m. and a show at 8 p.m. at Steve’s Guitars in Carbondale. The world-class acoustic guitarist will play a spirited fusion of Brazilian music and jazz, and his workshop will provide a great opportunity for local guitarists. The workshop costs $30, and tickets to the show cost $15. For more information, visit http://www.stevesguitars.net.
The Silt Historical Park is hosting two great book signings in one day beginning at 1 p.m. First, meet LaVerne “Bubbles” Starbuckas as she presents her book, “From the End of the Road,” about the old country schools in western Garfield County. She will be followed by Larry Rynearson, who will present his book, “Colorado’s Historic Mountain Passes,” which will introduce you, through photographs and stories, to those who built these passes and how they were used. The signings are free, but donations to the Silt Historical Park are appreciated. For more information, visit http://www.silthistoricalpark.com.
Jessica Cabe wishes we could all just get along. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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