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The Truth About Legacy Catalogues and How to Avoid the Myths That Harm Them (via Billboard)

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Categories: Articles, Business, Copyright, Legacy, Music Catalogues, Music Industry, Music Publishing, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Truth About Legacy Catalogues and How to Avoid the Myths That Harm Them

By:  Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.

This post was originally published on Billboard.com.

Now is the time when many legacy songwriters and their heirs have recaptured or are in the process of recapturing rights to their catalogues. However, the music business is not the same as it was 56 or 35 years ago when these songs were written. Many legacy songwriters and their heirs are misguided on how to proceed with these newly reacquired rights because the original advice they received does not reflect the nature of today’s music marketplace.

In this article, I’ve compiled seven myths that frequently circulate around and potentially harm legacy songwriters and their heirs, and have offered a new perspective based on my experience with making deals in this area and managing legacy catalogues.

Myth 1: All songs that were once famous still earn a lot of money.

Wrong! While some evergreen compositions are fortunate to continue earning substantial incomes, this is more the exception than the rule. Aside from a catalogue like that of The Beatles, there are usually only between one and five songs in a catalogue that still earn money, and in many cases those songs earn only a fraction of the income earned in their heyday. I can quote many examples of songs that hit the top 20 on the Billboard charts, some of which even No. 1, when released, but now earn less than $5,000 per year and are largely forgotten by anyone not around at the time of the song’s release.

Myth 2: Major publishers are the only companies with the power to exploit a catalogue.

This was true in the past, but it no longer the case. Unfortunately, many legacy songwriters and their heirs remain stuck on 30-year old advice from the family’s now-retired music lawyer. In today’s marketplace, major publishers have catalogues so large that they often cannot give personal attention to each individual composition within those catalogues. Because they also have major hits in demand, they tend to wait for licensing and other opportunities to come to them. The problem for older catalogues is twofold: (1) only a small number of these songs are still in the forefront of the public’s mind, and therefore the majority of songs from older catalogues are not requested, and (2) many companies are not willing to invest resources in pitching low-earning compositions. Therefore, these musical gems are neglected and remain lost in a company’s catalogue earning far less than their potential.

On the other hand, independent publishers with smaller catalogs are able to give each composition more personal attention and seek out the right opportunities for it. While an independent company might not be able to give as large of an advance, sale price, or signing bonus as a major, an indie will actively work harder to make its compositions earn more money over the long term because its livelihood depends on it.

Myth 3: A company’s market share will increase the success of a catalogue.

Market share reports look at the percentage of the compositions a company owns in the marketplace, as well as percentage of the top charting hits, and percentage of revenue from that company in relation to total income earned from all compositions in the marketplace. However, market share can be misleading because, top income and charting hits can come from a small percentage of all songs in the marketplace as well as a small percentage of a company’s catalogue. A company’s market share does not guarantee income production for a legacy catalogue because, as explained while debunking Myths 1 and 2, many of these songs are lost in a large catalogue and those forgotten songs will not be actively exploited. Therefore, it is often the case that only a catalogue that already earns substantial income without effort will thrive at a company focused on market share. Further, any bulk funds allocated to major publishers based on market share that the company splits with its songwriters will be allocated to the top earning catalogues, again neglecting under-performing legacy compositions.

Myth 4: A larger company is better at collecting income.

Again, this is not necessarily the case because a larger amount of data to process means more chance for error. I’ve seen countless catalogues at major companies not earning what they should because of mistakes in information that have never been fixed. I’ve seen major publishers not correct information for low-earning compositions because it’s not important to them. I’ve seen companies pay writers and their heirs the wrong royalty rates because no one bothered to look at the original contract rates and the writer’s heirs had to settle for much less than what they should have earned in order to avoid expensive litigation. I’ve also seen companies not take the steps to collect the income — even for high earning songs — because for whatever reason their staff never got around to it. All of these actions hurt the earnings of the compositions and hurt the writers and heirs that benefit from — and sometimes rely on — that income.

Myth 5: It’s too hard to move to an independent publisher from a major.

As explained above, an independent publisher will typically work harder than a large company to make its catalogues earn money. Independent publishers want notable cuts, work the sync market and typically are more diligent about properly collecting income — again, because each dollar matters. The challenge really lies with finding the right independent partner for a catalogue — someone who knows the music, understands the legacy, and has the right connections to exploit the catalogue properly. The right partners are out there, and in this case, it is actually more important to have the right advisors to assist the catalogue owners with making the best decisions for the catalogue.

Myth 6: Writers and heirs can’t self-publish.

Writers and heirs can self-publish if they have the right team in place. Publishing a catalogue with no experience doing so and no connections in the business is not a recipe for success. However, writers and their heirs can maintain ownership of the rights and have the right advisors in place to manage and promote the catalogue. I regularly manage and/or administer catalogues for my clients who have chosen to retain ownership and self-publish.

Myth 7: Heirs will know what to do with a catalogue.

Heirs will not automatically know what to do with the catalogue they have inherited just because their parent/grandparent/aunt/uncle/child was a songwriter. In many cases, these heirs were not exposed to the business side of their relatives’ career and in most cases have no experience with music publishing or managing compositions. Typically, heirs that inherit a catalogue are overwhelmed by the vast amounts of information and don’t know where to start in getting a handle on the catalogue. The heirs that are more adept at navigating the music industry have typically learned over many years and from astute advisors.

Legacy songwriters still living can make arrangements for their catalogues now and clean up the catalogue’s governing information and paperwork so that heirs will inherit an organized packet of information. The right advisors in place can guide legacy songwriters in managing the issues surrounding the catalogue and setting it up to benefit the heirs for the remainder of the copyright term. Many of my living legacy writers will designate me to continue managing the catalogue after their death and I regularly work with heirs to assist them with navigating how to manage the issues regarding their catalogue and maintain and grow what they’ve inherited.

Erin M. Jacobson represents and protects independent, established and legacy songwriters and artists (including their heirs and estates), legacy catalogues, independent music publishers, Grammy and Emmy Award winners, and other music professionals at her law practice based in Beverly Hills, California.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute legal advice.

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Erin M. Jacobson published in Billboard

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Categories: Articles, Honors and Awards, Legacy, Music Industry, Terminations, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I am proud to announce that my most recent article, Attention Legacy Artists: 6 Things You Need to Know to Recapture Your Copyrights, has been published by Billboard!

 

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Attention Legacy Artists: 6 Things You Need to Know to Recapture Your Copyrights

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Categories: Articles, Business, Copyright, Legacy, Legal Issues, Music, Music Catalogues, Music Contracts, Music Industry, Music Publishing, Royalties, Terminations, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

By:  Erin M. Jacobson, Esq.

This article was first published on Billboard.com.

There has been a lot of buzz recently about songwriters and artists (or their heirs) recapturing copyright ownership of their songs – and youcanbelieve the hype.  Copyright law provides a chance for authors (or heirs of authors) to recapture ownership of the copyrights to works granted away many years ago, and the window allowed by the law to recapture those rights is now.[1] Recapturing rights can allow for an author or author’s heirs to negotiate better deals with higher royalty splits in their favor, sell catalogues for large sums of money, or finally regain control of how a catalogue is exploited and increase profits with the right team in place.

However, recapturing rights is a complicated business filled with many requirements and nuances.  Here are six things authors need to know about recapturing rights.

  1. Dates Matter

An author (or author’s heirs) can terminate grants of copyrights made before January 1, 1978 during a window beginning 56 years and ending 61 years from the original copyright date.[2]  However, notice of termination must be served on the current owner anytime between ten and two years before the date the author intends the rights to revert.[3]  For grants made after January 1, 1978, the calculation of when rights can be recaptured is based on the date of the grant, not the original copyright date.   These post-1978 grants may be terminated beginning at 35 or 40 years after the grant date (depending on the language in the grant)[4]with a five-year termination window. Again, notice of termination must be served on the current owner anytime between ten and two years before the date the author intends the rights to revert.[5]

Being proactive is one of the most important factors when it comes to recapturing rights.  As mentioned above, serving notice on the current owners of the copyrights is required to recapture rights.  Because of the additional requirement that this notice must be sent between ten and two years beforethe date the rights will revert, anyone intending to recapture rights must look at leasttwo years ahead.  If someone intending to recapture rights misses the notice window – rights cannotbe recaptured and the opportunity is forever lost. 

  1. Works for Hire Need Not Apply

If an author signed a work for hire agreement for the works in question, don’t bother.  Copyright Law specifically states that works for hire are not eligible for termination.[6]

  1. U.S. Rights Only

The termination provisions that are the subject of this article are part of United
States Copyright Law and therefore only apply to U.S. rights.  That means one can recapture U.S. rights, but not foreign rights.  Also, as of this writing, the chance to recapture is only applicable to U.S. contracts.[7]

  1. Masters are an Uphill Battle

Most discussions around recapture of copyrights refer to composition copyrights because compositions are generally more straightforward to recapture than master recordings.  Most record company contracts say that masters are works made for hire for the record company, and as explained above, works made for hire are not eligible to be terminated.  However, copyright law dictates that works made for hire must meet certain requirements to qualify as a work made for hire:  (a) it must be made by an employee within the scope of their employment, or (b) it must be specially commissioned by the owner of the work for hire, it must be agreed in writing, and the type of work must fall within one of nine categories designated by the law.[8]  “Master recordings” is not one of those nine categories.

While there have been a few instances where labels have quietly relinquished rights to masters and sworn all parties to secrecy, most record labels refuse to release rights to masters and instead negotiate with the artist to increase their royalty rates.  A higher royalty rate does not help artists whose masters are not being exploited and not earning money, but it is all in an effort for the labels to avoid setting a precedent.   Master recordings are record labels’ main assets and businesses cannot give away their assets without also giving away power and profit.

Unfortunately, this is an issue that will only be decided by litigation and/or copyright reform, and neither of those has happened yet.

  1. Relationships Matter

For pre-1978 grants, one author’s share may be terminated, rather than requiring co-writers to terminate together.  However, if an author’s heirs are the ones effecting termination, then a majority of those heirs must terminate together.

Post-1978 grants signed by more than one author require a majority of those authors to terminate the grant together, and if any one of more of those authors is deceased, then a majority of the heirs of each deceased author must sign instead.   However, there are exceptions to this rule if separate grants were signed.

Requiring multiple parties to sign the termination notices can be problematic if co-writers, or heirs fighting about estate issues, no longer speak.  Even if the parties may have lost touch over the years, it benefits everyone involved to coordinate and cooperate to recapture rights.

  1. Don’t Try This at Home, Kids

If not already apparent by reading this article, assessing eligibility for filing terminations and carrying out the proper procedures to recapture rights is extremely complex.  Furthermore, there are numerous nuances and requirements not discussed here that could also affect whether an author or an author’s heirs may recapture rights. Anyone seeking to recapture copyrights needs an attorney specifically focused on the music industry that also has extensive experience with assessing these issues and recapturing rights.  Not all entertainment attorneys understand music and not all music attorneys are experienced with terminations.

I regularly recapture rights for my clients, as well as advise them on protecting and revitalizing their catalogues, as I am in a unique position where I am deeply familiar with both older music and how to navigate those catalogues within today’s marketplace.  Being in this space also means I frequently see legacy artists and their heirs who have been misguided, who have lost their chance to recapture their rights, who don’t realize their catalogues are under-earning, and who don’t know where to start.   The right advisors are tantamount to a successful recapture process and future for the catalogue.

There is only one chanceto recapture copyrights, one chanceto regain control of one’s legacy, and one chance to get it right.  Choose wisely.

_____________________________________________________________________

[1]Depending on the circumstances of each individual work, as some works are not yet eligible, no longer eligible, or not eligible at all to recapture.

[2]U.S.C. 17 §304(c)(3) (1992).

[3]U.S.C. 17 §304(c)(4)(A) (1998).

[4]Post-1978 grants are terminable at 35 years after the date of the grant, however, if the grant’s language includes the right of publication for the work, then that five-year period begins either on 35 years after the date of publication, or 40 years after the date of the grant, whichever is earlier.

U.S.C. 17 §203(a)(3) (1998).

[5]U.S.C. 17 §203(a)(4)(A).

[6]U.S.C. 17 §304(c) (1992); U.S.C. 17 §203 (1998).

[7]There have been a couple of high profile disputes on this matter involving U.K. contracts (namely Duran Duran in one instance and Sir Paul McCartney in another), but Duran Duran lost in a U.K. lower court and subsequently settled, and McCartney settled without litigation.  Some other countries do have their own provisions for recapture of rights, but they vary by country and differ from U.S. law.

[8]U.S.C. 17 §101 (1992).

 

Disclaimer:  This article does not constitute legal advice.

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“Blurred Lines” — It’s the Hottest Case in This Place

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Categories: Articles, Copyright, Legal Disputes, Music, Music Industry, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Summary of the Legal Saga

“Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and Clifford Harris, Jr. was released in March of 2013.  It quickly caught attention for it’s catchy hook; fun, danceable beat; and seeming similarity to Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.”  (For ease of reading, I have referred to the writers of “Blurred Lines” as “Thicke,” but please note that all writers of “Blurred Lines” are included in the lawsuits discussed.  Instances involving Robin Thicke individually will be referenced as “Robin Thicke.”)

In May of 2013, Robin Thicke gave an interview to GQ magazine where he talked about how “Blurred Lines” came about, stating:

 “Pharrell and I were in the studio and I told him that one of my favorite songs of all time was Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to Give It Up.’ I was like, ‘Damn, we should make something like that, something with that groove.’ Then he started playing a little something and we literally wrote the song in about a half hour and recorded it . . . . Him and I would go back and forth where I’d sing a line and he’d be like, ‘Hey, hey, hey!’ We started acting like we were two old men on a porch hollering at girls like, ‘Hey, where you going, girl? Come over here!’”[1]

On July 9, 2013, Robin Thicke told Billboard:

“Pharrell and I were in the studio making a couple records, and then on the third day I told him I wanted to do something kinda like Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got To Give It Up,’ that kind of feel ’cause it’s one of my favorite songs of all time.”[2]

At the beginning of August 2013, the song “Blurred Lines” and the album of the same name both reached No. 1 on the charts.  However, the success was not without turmoil.  There was a lot of controversy floating around that Marvin Gaye’s estate (managed by Gaye’s children) felt the song “Blurred Lines” infringed the copyright of “Got to Give It Up” and there was also talk of infringement of Funkadelic’s “Sexy Ways.”[3]  News reports stated that Thicke had offered the Gaye Estate a “six-figure settlement” to quash the case, but the family turned it down.[4]  In mid-August, attorneys for Thicke filed a lawsuit to win a declaration that “Blurred Lines” did not infringe on the copyright of “Got to Give It Up” and “Sexy Ways.”[5] Thicke took the approach that “Blurred Lines” evoked the same “sound”[6] as “Got to Give It Up,” but that it did not infringe any copyrights of Gaye’s composition.  Thicke accused the Gaye Estate of trying to claim ownership of an entire genre, as opposed to a specific work.[7]

“Sexy Ways” writer and Funkadelic leader George Clinton is on Thicke’s side.  He tweeted “No sample of #Funkadelic‘s ‘Sexy Ways’ in @robinthicke‘s ‘Blurred Lines’ … We support @robinthicke @Pharrell!”[8]

In further support of Thicke, George Clinton announced on Twitter that he was taking his position to TMZ.[9]   On TMZ, Clinton said he wishes he wrote “Blurred Lines,”[10] and admitted that in comparing Thicke’s composition to “Sexy Ways” he did “hear a similar tone of voice, style, and a few notes, but not enough to sue.”  Clinton also made it clear that it was his publisher, Bridgeport Music, who was suing on behalf of Clinton and that Clinton himself did not support the suit.[11]  When asked about the similarity between “Blurred Lines” and “Got to Give It Up,” Clinton saw where people would make the correlation, but said he would testify in defense of Thicke.[12]  Since then, mentions of any infringement of “Sexy Ways” have quieted.

In October 2013, the Gaye Estate (minus Marvin Gaye III)[13] responded aggressively to Thicke’s lawsuit.  The Estate not only maintains its claim that “Blurred Lines” infringes on the copyright of “Got to Give It Up,” but also has filed another claim asserting that Robin Thicke’s song “Love After War” infringes on Gaye’s song “After the Dance.”[14]  The Gaye Estate also argues that Robin Thicke’s song “Make U Love Me” is similar in theme to Gaye’s song “I Want You,”[15] although the Estate did not add this supposed infringement to the list of formal claims in the lawsuit.  The Gaye Estate even said that Robin Thicke has a “Marvin Gaye fixation.”[16]

In addition to going after Thicke, the Gaye Estate is also dragging EMI April (now owned by Sony/ATV) into the dispute.[17]  EMI is the music publisher for “Blurred Lines” and also the music publishing administrator for Marvin Gaye’s catalogue.[18]  The Gaye Estate accuses EMI of having a conflict of interest since it represents both songs, and chastises EMI for failing to bring a suit to protect “Got to Give It Up” and for trying to intimidate the Gaye Estate from bringing a suit themselves.[19]  This puts EMI in a very difficult position as one wonders how the company could assert complete loyalty to both songs, from which it stands to make a profit.  EMI understandably doesn’t want to rock the boat, but after this messy fight it may lose one or both clients as well as one or both songs – plus the related profits.

The Gaye family now also claims there was never a six-figure settlement offered to them and that was a false story planted in the press to make the Gaye family seem unreasonable.[20]

Thicke’s lawyer, Howard King, released a statement to The Hollywood Reporter saying the Gaye Estate actually has no standing to sue on this matter and that three musicologists have reported that while the songs sound similar, their notes are different.[21]  However, Judith Finell, another well-known musicologist issued a report stating: “The two songs’ substantial similarities surpass the realm of generic coincidence reaching to the very essence of each work,” and offers a preliminary conclusion that “‘Blurred [Lines]’ was not created independently of ‘[Got to] Give It Up.’”[22]

On November 26, 2013, Marvin Gaye III filed his own lawsuit for infringement of “Got to Give It Up” by “Blurred Lines’” and infringement of “After the Dance” by “Love After War.”[23]  Unlike his siblings, he did not include a claim against EMI.  He did also mention the “Make U Love Me” / “I Want You” similarity, as well as the undeniable relationship between Robin Thicke’s song “Million Dolla Baby” and Gaye’s “Trouble Man.”[24]

Analysis

Robin Thicke’s interviews with GQ and Billboard are not going to bode well for his position in this case.  Anytime one says that a certain work inspired his newly created work it is going to fuel the fire of the other side’s infringement argument.

Thicke’s primary filing was a surprising move, as usually the party accusing infringement files first.  In this case, the writers sought to declare their innocence before the other parties filed against them.  It’s an interesting approach and I applaud Thicke’s attorneys for their proactive nature.  However, that first filing probably came across to many, or at least to Gaye’s children, as an aggressive move that elevated the level of the dispute.  It may also look suspicious to some observers when a supposedly innocent party has to loudly announce his innocence despite the law providing for a person’s innocence until proven guilty.

The Gaye family retaliated hard and seems to want to show everyone that they are taking this seriously and won’t go down without a fight.  Some people have asked me whether this will still settle out of court.  The truth is that it might – one never knows the direction a dispute like this will take.  However, I think for that to happen the monetary figure would have to be substantially large and might also involve the Gaye Estate gaining all or a portion of the “Blurred Lines” copyright.  Aside from that, I think the Gaye family’s stance portrays an image that they are more than willing to go to trial if necessary and will battle this issue until the end.

As stated above, at least three of the musicology reports are supposedly in Thicke’s favor, but have not been released.  Conversely, Finell’s report is not in Thicke’s favor.  In lay terms, Finell’s preliminary conclusion means “Blurred Lines” does infringe on “Got to Give It Up.”  (Note:  This is my interpretation of Finell’s report and based upon the contents of the report alone.  While I do know Ms. Finell, we did not discuss the details of the case or her report.)

Under copyright law, two similar works can be created independently of each other without infringement.  For example, two independent musicians on opposite sides of the country could create original and copyrightable songs that sound very similar to each other, without knowing each other or ever hearing each other’s music.  After all, there are only so many notes and chords that can be played.  However, in an infringement suit, here are some elements a court would examine:

1.  Copying

 One would have to show that the accused infringer directly copied the prior work.  This can be difficult to prove and is a point of contention in this case since Thicke claims they were only trying to evoke a sound[25] and did not expressly copy Gaye’s song.  However, Robin Thicke’s interviews with GQ and Billboard don’t help their case since Robin Thicke specifically said that “Got to Give It Up” was his favorite song[26] and he wanted to create “something like that.”[27]

2.  Access:

Even if direct copying cannot be proven, courts will assume that copying did occur if it is shown that the accused infringer had access to the supposedly infringed composition.  This could actually be a slam dunk point for the Gaye family since Robin Thicke admitted it is his favorite song in the GQ and Billboard interviews.

However, even if Robin Thicke did not admit his love for “Got to Give It Up,” the song’s fame and prominence in pop culture would satisfy this element.  The song has been played on the radio and is widely known, so the court will make the assumption that Thicke has heard it simply because it is a famous song.

Here’s another real world example:  In Bright Tunes Music Corp. v. Harrisongs Music, Ltd.,[28] George Harrison’s song “My Sweet Lord” was deemed to infringe on the song “He’s So Fine” recorded by The Chiffons in 1962.[29]  The court didn’t require actual proof that Harrison had heard  “He’s So Fine” before; it relied on the fact that “He’s So Fine” had the top position on the Billboard charts in the U.S. for five weeks and hit No. 12 in England in 1963[30] – coincidentally at the same time The Beatles were becoming famous.[31]  The court concluded that Harrison unconsciously plagiarized “He’s So Fine” when he composed “My Sweet Lord” because “his subconscious knew [the musical combination of notes] had worked in a song his conscious mind did not remember.”[32]  The court went on to further conclude that it did not believe Harrison deliberately copied the song,[33] but ruled against him anyway because access to “He’s So Fine” was assumed due to its fame and the two songs had enough similarities to satisfy the court.[34]  For those of us well versed in Beatles trivia, it is also known that the lads were fans of the early-60s girl groups and Phil Spector’s production style, later hiring Spector to produce the album “Let It Be.”  In an ironic and amusing turn of events, Harrison eventually purchased the copyright to “He’s So Fine,” making him the owner of both compositions.

3.  Substantial Similarity:

Another factor to look at is whether a lay person (i.e. a regular music listener) would view the two songs as similar.  Again, Finell’s report shows that the two compositions are very similar to each other, and much internet buzz has shown that most listeners are immediately able to pick up on the similarity (provided they are familiar with Gaye’s song).

To further complicate matters, it seems Robin Thicke has a pattern of releasing songs that sound like songs by Marvin Gaye.  A simple online search yields several websites showing the undeniable similarities between “Million Dolla Baby” and “Trouble Man,”[35] as well as the other three mentioned compositions.  However, Robin Thicke had permission from the Gaye Estate for “Million Dolla Baby” and the song credits list Gaye as a writer.[36]  Therefore it is probable the family is receiving royalties for that song and thus would not sue for that composition.[37]  What bothers me as a music appreciator is that I like some of Robin Thicke’s music.  With this pattern cropping up of multiple songs sounding like Gaye, I think it makes him lose credibility as an artist/writer and may end up hurting his career.  There is already talk within the industry that he may not win awards this season because of this legal battle.  It would be sad to see him lose future success because of this emerging pattern.

The first time I heard “Blurred Lines,” I realized the similarity to “Got to Give It Up,” but personally felt that it was evoking a sound more than direct infringement.   What strengthens the “evoking a sound” argument is the number of other songs that also have similar elements to both “Blurred Lines” and “Got to Give it Up.”  “Sexy Ways” was released in 1974.  “Got to Give It Up” was released in 1977.  The Jacksons then released “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” in 1978, which has a similar “woo!” to “Blurred Lines.”  Michael Jackson’s 1979 hit “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” has yet another similar “woo!” as well as a similar rhythm and use of cowbell as “Blurred Lines.” Marvin Gaye didn’t sue Michael or any of the other Jacksons for these songs, which made me wonder why Thicke is now a target for “Blurred Lines.”  Also, all of the songs just mentioned (with the exception of “Sexy Ways”) are from 1977-1979.   The 1970s was a distinct era and had a recognizable sound that “Blurred Lines” does evoke.

Some of my colleagues think it would be a travesty if federal judges did not police copyright more strictly and rule against Thicke in this case, fearing that it could allow more cases of actual infringement to slide through the cracks, or worse, be deemed acceptable and set a precedent for others to willfully infringe.  On the other hand, part of the purpose of copyright is to create a benefit or award to creators[38] of “original works of authorship,”[39] but that protection is also limited in duration.  Copyright is not meant to stifle creativity, so I think the challenge in this case is balancing the protection of existing compositions without stifling the creation of new works.

There are a variety of possible outcomes in this case and I will continue to provide my analysis as more details emerge.



[1] Stelios Phili, Robin Thicke on That Banned Video, Collaborating with 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar, a and His New Film, GQ, May 7, 2013, http://www.gq.com/blogs/the-feed/2013/05/robin-thicke-interview-blurred-lines-music-video-collaborating-with-2-chainz-and-kendrick-lamar-mercy.html.

[2] Gary Graff, Robin Thicke on Wife’s Impact on ‘Blurred Lines,’ Not Touring America Until 2014, Billboard, July 9, 2013, http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/1569348/robin-thicke-on-wifes-impact-on-blurred-lines-not-touring-america-until-2014

[3] Eriq Gardner, Robin Thicke Sues to Protect “Blurred Lines” from Marvin Gaye’s Family (Exclusive), THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, ESQ., August 15, 2013, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/robin-thicke-sues-protect-blurred-607492.

[4] Alex Pham, “Blurred Lines” Legal Battle:  Marvin Gaye’s Family Rejected Robin Thicke’s Six-Figure Offer, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, ESQ., August 23, 2013, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/blurred-lines-legal-battle-marvin-613551.

[5] Eriq Gardner, Robin Thicke Sues to Protect “Blurred Lines” from Marvin Gaye’s Family (Exclusive), THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, ESQ., August 15, 2013, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/robin-thicke-sues-protect-blurred-607492.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Posting of George Clinton to Twitter, https://twitter.com/george_clinton (August 15, 2013); Eriq Gardner, Robin Thicke Sues to Protect “Blurred Lines” from Marvin Gaye’s Family (Exclusive), THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, ESQ., August 15, 2013, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/robin-thicke-sues-protect-blurred-607492.

[9] Posting of George Clinton to Twitter, https://twitter.com/george_clinton/status/369826118456467456 (August 15, 2013).

[10] Interview by Harvey Levin with George Clinton, on TMZ, (August 19, 2013), http://www.tmz.com/2013/08/19/tmz-live-lindsay-oprah-winfrey-lohan-thomas-gibson-lebron-james-robin-thicke-george-clinton-robert-pattinson-katie-couric-kim-kardashian-jennifer-lopez-the-calling/

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Eriq Gardner, Marvin Gaye’s Oldest Son Claims Robin Thicke Copied Four Songs (Exclusive), THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, ESQ., November 26, 2013, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/marvin-gayes-oldest-son-claims-660382

[14] Eriq Gardner, Blurred Lines” Lawsuit:  Marvin Gaye Family Now Claims Robin Thicke Stole Two Songs (Exclusive), THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, ESQ., October 30, 2013, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/blurred-lines-lawsuit-marvin-gaye-651427

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Report from Judith Finell, Judith Finell Music Services, Inc., Preliminary Report:  Comparison of “Got to Give It Up” and “Blurred Lines” (October 17, 2013) http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/sites/default/files/custom/Documents/ESQ/musicologyblurred.pdf

[23] Eriq Gardner, Marvin Gaye’s Oldest Son Claims Robin Thicke Copied Four Songs (Exclusive), THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, ESQ., November 26, 2013, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/marvin-gayes-oldest-son-claims-660382

[24] Eriq Gardner, Marvin Gaye’s Oldest Son Claims Robin Thicke Copied Four Songs (Exclusive), THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, ESQ., November 26, 2013, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/marvin-gayes-oldest-son-claims-660382; Marc Hogan, Marvin Gaye’s son Widens Robin Thicke Theft Accusations Beyond “Blurred Lines,” SPIN, August 22, 2013, http://www.spin.com/articles/marvin-gaye-son-robin-thicke-blurred-lines-lawsuit-trouble-man/

[25] Eriq Gardner, Robin Thicke Sues to Protect “Blurred Lines” from Marvin Gaye’s Family (Exclusive), THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, ESQ., August 15, 2013, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/robin-thicke-sues-protect-blurred-607492.

[26] Gary Graff, Robin Thicke on Wife’s Impact on ‘Blurred Lines,’ Not Touring America Until 2014, Billboard, July 9, 2013, http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/1569348/robin-thicke-on-wifes-impact-on-blurred-lines-not-touring-america-until-2014

[27] Stelios Phili, Robin Thicke on That Banned Video, Collaborating with 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar, a and His New Film, GQ, May 7, 2013, http://www.gq.com/blogs/the-feed/2013/05/robin-thicke-interview-blurred-lines-music-video-collaborating-with-2-chainz-and-kendrick-lamar-mercy.html.

[28] Bright Tunes Music Corp. v. Harrisongs Music, Ltd., 420 F. Supp. 177 (1976).

[29] Id.

[30] Id. at 179.

[31] Id.

[32] Id. at 180.

[33] Id. at 181.

[34] Id.

[35] Marc Hogan, Marvin Gaye’s son Widens Robin Thicke Theft Accusations Beyond “Blurred Lines,” SPIN, August 22, 2013, http://www.spin.com/articles/marvin-gaye-son-robin-thicke-blurred-lines-lawsuit-trouble-man/

[36] Id.

[37] Id.

[38] Craig Joyce et al., Copyright Law 2 (7th ed., LexisNexis)(2006).

[39] Id. at 3.

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Edgar Allan Poets on Billboard’s Top 10!

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Categories: Clients, Music, Music Industry, Tags: , , , , , , , ,

On April 11, 2013, my client Edgar Allan Poets entered Billboard’s Next Big Sound chart at #10.   This chart features “the fastest accelerating artists during the
past week across all major social music sites, statistically predicted to achieve future success, as measured by Next Big Sound.”
Here the link:
http://www.billboard.com/charts/next-big-sound-25