Robin Thicke countersued by Marvin Gaye’s family for blatant copyright infringement


Alright, this story is complicated, but bear with me. You know how Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” sounds a lot like Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up”? It’s the truth, and I always assumed that Robin acknowledged the blatant sampling of Gaye’s work. Turns out, not so much. Back in September, Robin asked for a court to issue a ruling that “Blurred Lines” is nothing like “Got To Give It Up” whatsoever. At the time, it seemed like an sto-gap measure by Thicke to ask for a legal decision before the Gaye family had a chance to sue him. Except now the Gaye family has come out and they are PISSED.

Marvin Gaye’s family is responding in a major way to Robin Thicke’s lawsuit claiming that “Blurred Lines” wasn’t stolen from Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” On Wednesday, the family went nuclear with counterclaims that allege that Thicke stole the summer mega-hit and also committed copyright infringement on Gaye’s “After the Dance” to create his song “Love After War.” What’s more, the new legal papers obtained by The Hollywood Reporter suggest that Thicke’s “Marvin Gaye fixation” extends to additional songs in the Thicke repertoire.

Perhaps even more consequential, Gaye’s family also has set its sights on EMI April, the song publisher now owned by Sony/ATV that has business relationships with both sides. According to the counterclaims, EMI has breached a contract and its fiduciary duty by failing to protect Gaye’s songs, attempting to intimidate the family against filing any legal action, failing to remain neutral when faced with a conflict of interest and attempting to turn public opinion against the family.

The penalty for those acts, says the Gaye family, should be that EMI loses all profits on “Blurred Lines” as well as rights to administer the song catalog of Gaye, known as the “Prince of Soul.”

This court battle was triggered in August when Thicke and his producers Pharrell Williams and Clifford Harris Jr. went to a California federal court with the aim of preemptively protecting “Blurred Lines” from allegations that it was illegally derived from Gaye’s song as well as Funkadelic’s “Sexy Ways.” Requesting declaratory relief, the plaintiffs stated that “being reminiscent of a ‘sound’ is not copyright infringement.”

The Gaye family quotes music critics at The New York Times, Vice, Rolling Stone and Bloomberg Businessweek who have remarked about the Marvin Gaye resemblance in “Blurred Lines.” The countersuit also presents an expert report by musicologist Judith Finell detailing “at least eight substantially similar compositional features” with Gaye’s original. The similarities are said to encompass the signature phrase, vocal hook, backup vocal hook, their variations, and the keyboard and bass lines — “far surpassing the similarities that might result from attempts to evoke an ‘era’ of music or a shared genre,” according to the court papers.

While the countersuit makes the case that the public has detected Gaye in Thicke’s other songs — “including the similar bridge and identical lyrics from Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Want You’ in Thicke’s similarly-themed work, ‘Make U Love Me’ ” — it brings a second copyright infringement claim only over Thicke’s “Love After War.” That song is said to share a similar chorus, hook melody and more with Gaye’s “After the Dance.”

…The Gaye family also accuses EMI and representatives of Williams and Thicke of “the planting of a knowingly false story in the press that the Gaye Family supposedly turned down a “six figure settlement,” (no such offer was made) in order to make them appear unreasonable.”

[From THR]

There’s so much more at THR story, which you are welcome to wade through. There’s a lot of legalese and I would imagine that the story is like p0rn to copyright lawyers, but to a layperson, it’s kind of boring. While I think it’s fine to acknowledge that many, many artists sample works of other artists, we should remember that when sampling, most artists do give credit where its due. It was a douche move for Robin Thicke to try some kind of preemptive strike against the Gaye family, and of course they responded. What makes it even funnier (to me) is that the Gaye family points out that Robin has sampled from Marvin Gaye’s song catalogue many, many times.

Do you want to hear the songs in a mash-up?



Photos courtesy of WENN.

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41 Responses to “Robin Thicke countersued by Marvin Gaye’s family for blatant copyright infringement”

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  1. aims says:

    It sounds way to close to be a accident. The Gaye family has a case imo.

  2. Sarah says:

    If you go to YouTube and search for Marvin Gaye You Got To Give It Up, then the exact video that as used for the mashup footage comes up. Without the Music from the mashup playing behing Gaye’s singing, I don’t think I would have noticed any similarities in the two songs beyond the men both singing in falsetto.
    The mashup is very misleading.

  3. smee says:

    Gawd I hope they win. The only “good” part of that song is what he lifted from the Prince of Soul!

  4. Allison says:

    Similar, yes. Cheap knock off? Absolutely. Sampling? Meh, I don’t know about that. This reminds me off Gaga and “Born This Way” and Madonna “Express Yourself.” Obviously Gaga was influenced by Madonna. Obviously. But no one is confusing the two artists or two songs. And same here with Thicke and Gaye. They are established artists in their own way, in their own time, and while a lot of people probably thought “Huh, that sounds familiar” when they first heard “Blurred Lines,” no one is getting the two songs or artists confused.

    Also, Thicke and Gaye is my new band name.

    • CG says:

      +1. I hear similarities, but like you said, I’m never going to confuse the songs. And can I join Thicke and Gaye? I play piano (badly). :)

    • Eve says:

      “But no one is confusing the two artists or two songs. “

      In all honesty, I swear I thought I was listening to the same song when I heard “Born This Way” for the first time. It was playing on VH1 and I had my back turned to the tv, and I remember thinking: “Hey, I know this song”, then I turned around and saw Caca.

      P.S.: I do love your band’s name though.

      • Deb says:

        I had the same reaction with “Alejandro”. It sounds very, very much like “Don’t Turn Around” by Ace of Base. I was in a store at the outlet mall and “Alejandro” was playing in the background. I left the store and entered a different store. I thought I heard “Alejandro” playing in that store as well until the singing started. It was “Don’t Turn Around”.

      • Eve says:

        Thank you! That’s what “Alejandro” reminded of, I knew it sounded familiar — “Don’t Turn Around” (with a dash of “La Isla Bonita”).

      • Kat says:

        Yes! I thought it was “La Isla Bonita” when I first heard it and I was like, no, it’s not…Oh, it’s “Don’t Turn Around!” I’m glad other people thought this too.

      • lucy2 says:

        You can pretty much sing the Madonna song right along with Born This Way and it totally fits. Anytime I hear it, my brain goes to the other lyrics. And I totally agree Alejandro sounds like the Ace of Base song. For someone who wants to be seen as so original, Gaga sure likes to be “influenced”.

        I can’t listen to compare Thicke’s right now, but he bugs me, and the preemptive suit makes me hope Gaye’s family wins.

    • doofus says:

      actually, the first time I heard Thicke’s song was in a mall somewhere, and when it was playing, my first thought was “wow, they’re playing Marvin Gaye in THE MALL?!”

      then I realized it wasn’t his song, and was totally confused as to what/who it was. Then I saw the video (on here, I think) and realized that Blurred Lines must have been the song I had heard in the mall. so, it was similar enough for ME to confuse the two…

      and yes, “Thicke and Gaye” is an AWESOME band name.

      • SummersReign says:

        “Thicke and Gaye” love it!

        The songs have a similar vibe to them but I dont think its a copy or a sample of Gaye’s song (which I love !).

        Seems to me as if Gaye’s family is looking for a new cash cow (JMO) and Robin Thicke is not my cup of tea either.

    • Esmom says:

      Agreed. Born this Way is the most blatant rip off I can recall in recent memory. Way worse than Blurred Lines, in my admittedly nowhere near professional opinion.

    • ol cranky says:

      agreed the style is the same but this isn’t sampling and neither Gaye nor his family own the copywrite on the style.

  5. Lucy says:

    Good for them. Thicke needs to GTFO.

  6. AlexandraJane says:

    The mash up should be released. Its great!

  7. Merritt says:

    While I think it may be a long shot, it would be awesome if Gaye’s family won. At least Gaye’s music has stood the test of time. “Blurred Lines” is rather forgettable. That is why they had to make that gross video.

  8. decorative item says:

    The part of the video where the 1/2 naked woman humps the toy(real?) dog makes me want to vomit almost as much as Thicke does. That man just oozes icky, predator, and full of himself. When I see his “sexy face” in the video I want to puke. And, the songs do sound the same.

  9. yeahright says:

    The mashup is a bit misleading… it’s just Marvin Gaye singing to the beats of Blurred Lines. I had a listen to Marvin’s song on its own and I don’t think there is enough there to warrant any outrage.

    It sounds to me like Marvin’s family thought there were enough similarities but then faced such backlash for it they’re going hard at it now. And I mean backlash from the record label.

  10. Hakura says:

    I really do think they sound incredibly alike. This is not a humblebrag or a hit at those who dont agree, but I’ve always had an ear for music (that was even tested once). The similarities go so much deeper than the ‘falsetto’ voice similarity… Undertones, skips in the beat that were unique to Gaye’s song… I was the most struck by the mash-up at about 3:17, where it switches from Gaye to Thicke again.

    But that aside, why would Thicke make the ‘preemptive’ legal move to try to prevent then coming after him, if he wasn’t totally aware that he’d (at least) sampled Gaye? It’s like a ‘guilty conscience’ is what caused him to act in the first place.

    • Shirley says:

      The Gaye family is using the “copyright” issue to attack EMI and obtain the rights to Marvin Gaye’s song catalogue (its quoted in the article). Robin Thicke is probably just an excuse for them to take on EMI, it seems the strategy they’ve chosen is to threaten to tarnish Robin’s career publicly-that’s their bargaining chip. The legal move was probably on advice from lawyers when they found out the Gaye family is planning legal action-it strengthens their case. I mean, blurred lines came out during march out April, if robin really was guilt wracked over plagurizing you’d think he’d get legal approval singer than august. I’m just real sad about all the hate he’s been getting: I was a big fan of robin Thicke when he was that long haired hippie years ago, a great singer and song writer who was every bit the struggling artist. Boom, years later, in his 30 s, still no major success, decides fck it, sells out, finally gets a major single, money, gigs on letterman, Conan, VMAs, and people thinks he’s a douche now. Seriously, when he made good music no one gave a sht. The man just can’t seem to get a break :-( blurred lines is such a shitty song it breaks my heart T_T

  11. cinnamon girl says:

    more cowbells, more cowbells!!! both tunes are the same haha

  12. Apsutter says:

    Thicke is a very poor/pale imitation of a musical genius. He wants to make soulful music but lacks the heart so he just imitates the greats…wonder if there is any stolen gems from Stevie or Al Green in Thicke’s catalog.

  13. Tiffany :) says:

    This is NOT a sample. A “sample” is a VERY SPECIFIC thing, it means that you actually take the original recording and use a piece of it.

    Re-recording similar notes in similar but not exactly the same way is NOT sampling. Recording the exact same notes would be quoting/covering another piece, and royalties would need to be paid to the original artist, but you dont’ need permission to quote/cover. You do need permission to sample.

    This song sounds very similar, you know the producer used it as a guide, but they are not EXACTLY the same. They need to be exactly the same for it to be copyright infringement.

  14. Amanda G says:

    Robin’s song is definitely inspired by Marvin’s, but I don’t see how it’s a copywrite infringement. I think the Gaye family is going to lose this one. I enjoy both songs.

  15. Launicaangelina says:

    The most important thing to note, damn, Marvin Gaye was a fine looking man. So handsome and sexy. Mmmmmmm…

  16. Sarah says:

    I was fully expecting to agree with most of the sentiments here but I listened and I don’t think it’s the same thing. It’s similar, but I thought it had to be the same 8 notes or something to be a copyright infringement. I don’t hear that if that’s the case.

  17. Mindy says:

    This is a mildly older person talking.. Okay?

    When I was a kid, George Harrison was sued by Phil Spector and LOST for UNCONSCIOUSLY taking three chords from He’s So Fine and accidentally using them for My Sweet Lord. The song wasn’t an ‘homage’ and unless you really concentrated, you would never have heard the connection. The music arrangements on the two songs was completely different. If he LOST HIS CASE, why the hell is it okay NOW for someone to lift, the same chord progressions… the same hook, the same falsettos? When I heard Blurred Lines (and I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard the song until he took a preemptive strike and sued the Gaye family FIRST – which made me immediately believe that he knew he was guilty of plagiarizing ) all I heard was someone making a mess OVER Marvin Gaye’s song. I honestly hope the Gaye family wins, and it opens the floodgates and lets all of the people who have been ripped off in recent years the chance to get royalties from the ‘musicians’ who are stealing from them.

    • fancyamazon says:

      Amen, sista. Remember the Vanilla Ice/Queen lawsuit? Ice (whatever his name is I actually forget) was completely annihilated in court for plagiarizing hook and melody from Queen. That is why when there are “samples” in music these days most artists will pay for the right to use them upfront.

      I go back and forth on whether I enjoy the results, but it is up to the original artist or their estate ultimately.

      Anyway, I am maybe just old, but although I enjoy a lot of new music, I just find Thicke to be a Cheap trick. Although I shouldn’t use the term, because I sort of still like Cheap Trick. :)

  18. Onyx XV says:

    Hilarious! Robin Thicke’s wannabe ways are finally gonna bite him in the ass! LOL! He is going to PAY. Cha-ching!!

  19. Green Eggs and Ham says:

    I hope the Gaye family get rid of EMI; they are supposed to protect the patent rights for Marvin Gaye’s music but they are also affiliated with Pharnell Williams & Robin Thicke. They should have been neutral but did not. I stopped listening to “Blurred Lines” after the lawsuit and misleading PR.

  20. AnnieCL says:

    Thicke by name, thicke by nature!