(The Hollywood Reporter) – Good artists borrow. Great artists steal. On Tuesday, a California federal jury delivered its own message to artists everywhere that inspiration can rise to copyright infringement.
The verdict was reached after eight days of trial testimony examining whether Robin Thicke’s and Pharrell Williams’ “Blurred Lines,” one of the most successful songs of the young century, was improperly drawn from a soulful hallmark from the prior one — Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up.”
Ultimately, a jury comprised of five women and three men heard dueling opinions regarding “Blurred Lines” and decided to order Thicke and Williams to pay $4 million in copyright damages plus profits attributable to infringement, which for Thicke was determined to be $1.8 million and for Williams was determined to be $1.6 million. Both escaped statutory damages as the infringement was found not to be willful.
The hardly predictable outcome over a song that made more than $16 million in profits will resonate in the music industry where copyright lawsuits are commonplace, but few such suits ever make it to trial. Most never get past the summary judgment phase because judges carefully draw the line on any lawsuits alleging misappropriation of non-protectable ideas.