In March 2015, after nearly two years of legal woes, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams Williams were found guilty of copying Marvin Gaye’s 1977 single “Got to Give It Up” for their 2013 smash “Blurred Lines”. Along with the devastating verdict, the two were ordered to pay $7.3 million dollars in damages to Gaye’s estate.
Thicke and Williams have since sought to overturn the verdict, and as The Hollywood Reporter notes, they’ve got the support of a hefty group of influential, A-list musicians. Tool, Hans Zimmer, Tears for Fears, Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse, John Oates, Earth, Wind & Fire, and more than 200 others have filed an amicus brief with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals effectively saying they back the “Blurred Lines” creators.
These amici curiae (Latin for “friends of the court”) aren’t exactly hoping for an overturning for the same reasons Thicke and Williams are, however. For them, their concerns go far beyond the details of the “Blurred Lines” trial and the evidence introduced; they’re afraid that such a verdict will set a precedent — a dangerously restrictive one — in terms of musical creativity.
(Read: 10 Famous Cases of Alleged Music Plagiarism)
“The verdict in this case threatens to punish songwriters for creating new music that is inspired by prior works,” states the official brief. “All music shares inspiration from prior musical works, especially within a particular musical genre. By eliminating any meaningful standard for drawing the line between permissible inspiration and unlawful copying, the judgment is certain to stifle creativity and impede the creative process.”
To back up their claims, the 212 musicians pointed to Gaye himself, who was said to have been heavily inspired by his peers as well as a handful of artists that came before him, including Frank Sinatra, James Brown, and Nat “King” Cole”.
“Such a result, if allowed to stand, is very dangerous to the music community, is certain to stifle future creativity, and ultimately does a disservice to past songwriters as well,” the brief adds. “One can only imagine what our music would have sounded like if David Bowie would have been afraid to draw from Shirley Bassie, or if the Beatles would have been afraid to draw from Chuck Berry, or if Elton John would have been afraid to draw from the Beatles, or if Elvis Presley would have been afraid to draw from his many influences.”
Find the full brief below.