Watch CBSN Live

"Blurred Lines" verdict could have chilling consequences

Musicians Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams owe the family of Marvin Gaye nearly $7.4 million. A federal jury found them guilty of ripping off the late singer's 1977 hit "Got to Give It Up" when they wrote their 2013 song "Blurred Lines." The decision could create a blurry future for music, CBS News' Anthony Mason reports.

"We know that this kind of thing goes on all the time, and yet this was too close for comfort," Billboard Magazine Editor-at-Large‎ Joe Levy said Wednesday on "CBS This Morning." "Most songs that take inspiration, if you play them back-to-back with another song, they don't sound this much alike."

The attorneys for Thicke and Williams argued throughout the trial that while "Blurred Lines" may have had a similar feel to Gaye's song, it was completely original. Nevertheless, the jury's decision has sent a message to musicians: Sometimes inspiration can cross a line and become plagiarism.

Gaye's children left court Tuesday feeling vindicated by the verdict.

"This was a miracle," his daughter Nona said.

Both artists admit they were inspired by Gaye's style of music but deny charges that they copied the song.

"'Blurred Lines' is an independent creation from the heart and soul of Pharrell Williams and no one else," the duo's attorney Howard King said.

Levy said he was most surprised the trial lasted to the end.

"This didn't have to happen ... Most cases like this are settled," he said. "... There was a lot of money at stake, and I think they thought they could win."

Pharrell, Thicke and rapper T.I. released the following statement:

"While we respect the judicial process, we are extremely disappointed in the ruling made today, which sets a horrible precedent for music and creativity going forward. 'Blurred Lines' was created from the heart and minds of Pharrell, Robin and T.I. and not taken from anyone or anywhere else. We are reviewing the decision, considering our options and you will hear more from us soon about this matter."

Some in the music industry say the case could create a new standard when judging similar matters.

"The one and only part of a composition that's really protected by copyright is the melody of the song," music journalist Alan Light said. "We're now able to look at lawsuits that are based on sort of the inspiration and feel of previous songs that could potentially open up the door for all kinds of different cases."

"There's a lot of concern that this could have a chilling effect on creativity in the music industry, and I'm not sure it will, but I do think that lawyers involved for labels, for music publishers are going to be a lot more cautious moving forward," Levy said.

The trial lasted more than a week and both Williams and Thicke testified. Jurors never heard full versions of either song. Instead, they were told to focus solely on the sheet music.

Expert witnesses called musicologists compared the songs note by note and came to different conclusions, but Gaye's attorneys decided to focus on similarities in phrases, the hook and the lyrics.

"This was about the copying of melody, of harmony. It was about the copying of baselines and keyboards. That's what the jury found," the Gaye's family attorney Richard Busch said.

With that decision, some think the jurors hit the wrong note.

"I understand there are similarities, but I also understand the notes are different, the songs are not the same and no one owns a genre, no one owns a groove," King said.

Neither side is declaring this case over.

The attorney for Thicke and Williams said he's considering many legal options while the Gaye family's lawyer will reportedly ask the court to block sales of "Blurred Lines" until a financial agreement has been reached on how to share any future money made from the song.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.