No “Blurred Lines” when it comes to Infringement!

If you’re a lover of music, it is more than likely that you have heard Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” (recorded in 2012 and released in 2013), but it may be likely that you have not heard that Thicke, and his co-writers (Clifford Harris Jr. aka “TI”, and Pharrell Williams), have been caught up in major litigation regarding the song.  In short, singer/songwriter Marvin Gaye’s family claimed that Thicke’s hit song used distinct musical elements from Gaye’s 1977 hit, “Got to Give it Up” without getting permission from Gaye’s estate (Gaye passed away in 1984).  Such copyright infringement claims are quite common in the world of music and entertainment, but most cases (especially those with high profile clients) tend to settle out of court.  This case, however, reached a full trial with a jury!  So, I’m sure you can imagine just how excited us IP attorneys were, and how closely we have followed this case!

“There is an old saying in the music business… that if you get a hit, you will get a writ.” – Kenneth J. Abdo, a music lawyer.

Although the case has reached a conclusion now, it goes back to August 2013, when Thicke and his co-writers filed a preemptive strike against Gaye’s family, seeking judgment in their favor and claiming there was usage of Gaye’s track in Thicke’s hit.  As expected, Nona and Frankie Gaye (Gaye’s children) counter-sued.  The two sides were unable to reach a settlement and the case found its way into the Los Angeles court system.

In the landmark decision that came out today (March 10th, 2015), an 8 person (5 women / 3 men) federal jury in Los Angeles found in favor of Gaye’s family and agreed that Thicke’s 2013 hit song “Blurred Lines” did indeed infringe on Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up.” The majority of case consisted of analysis and comparisons of both the tracks – with witnesses on both sides attempting to prove either the similarity or dissimilarity of the tracks.  Gaye’s lawyer chose to rely on musicologists as his expert witnesses, who helped elucidate the similarities in the two compositions by providing layered analysis of the music.

Both Thicke and Williams appeared in court to defend the case, and Gaye’s lawyer was reported as saying he had to work hard to counter the power of their celebrity.  What was really a strange move in my opinion, and perhaps what may have been a pivotal moment in the case, is when Williams actually admitted to the similarities of the tracks after hearing the bass lines from both juxtaposed upon one another.  He is quoted as saying, “It sounds like you’re playing the same thing.”

Ultimately, the jury awarded $7.4 million in judgment to Gaye’s children.  This amount is unsurprising when one recognizes that the Grammy-award nominated, “Blurred Lines,” made nearly $16.5 million in sales.  The track stayed on Billboard’s single chart for 10 consecutive weeks!  Although the jury found against the co-writers, they did not hold the record company liable.

Speaking after the verdict, Marvin Gaye’s daughter, Nona Gaye, said in a statement, “Right now, I feel free. Free from Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke’s chains and what they tried to keep on us and the lies that were told.”

If you (and especially if you’re a major artist) are thinking of using samples from other tracks, or claiming that a track “inspired” your composition, I would caution that you should always do it the legal way.  Contact the main artist and ask for permission.  Sure, it may cost you money to get that coveted sample you want to use, but isn’t it better than the larger payout you would have to make if an artist finds that you are infringing their work?  Additionally, if you can’t afford to pay out, perhaps consider searching for music whose owners have given permission for others to sample their work.  The Thicke-Gaye case shows that, these days, there are no “blurred lines” between inspiration and infringement.  Proceed with caution, friends.

If you’re still curious and want to read more, check out further details in this rather comprehensive article on CNN:

Happy International Women’s Day!

Wishing a very Happy International Women’s Day to all the women of the world.  As a professional woman, it is my absolute dream to have women be viewed as equals, not only in the United States, but also in all the countries of the world.  Over the years, women have become stronger and more outspoken.  No longer is a woman going to allow injustice to be done against her gender.  More and more women are getting an education and pervading every field possible.  Personally, I had wonderful female role models in my Mom and sister.  My mom is a pillar of strength and is the reason I have achieved all that I have.  She stressed the need to be a good human being, the importance of being honest in life, and to always continue to learn.  My sister too is an excellent role model and showed me the significance of academic prowess.

“The strength of a woman is not measured by the impact that all her hardships in life have had on her; but the strength of a woman is measured by the extent of her refusal to allow those hardships to dictate her and who she becomes.” ― C. JoyBell C.

Here in the United States, women are generally considered equals, but there remains work to be done.  For example, there is still a gender gap as applied to salaries for women.  An AAUW study (see here) revealed that there has not been a narrowing of the pay gap.  Among full-time, year-round workers, women were paid only 77 percent to 78 percent of what their male counterparts were paid (see here).  That is significant.  In the field of law, a study by the ABA (see here) revealed a major discrepancy in the salaries of women lawyers vs. male lawyers.  A survey conducted by the National Association of Women Lawyers revealed that only 16% of equity partners at major law firms are women.  Furthermore, these women earn almost $90,000 less than their male counterparts! At firms that have higher billable-hour requirements, this pay gap is even wider with women equity partners earning approximately $140,000 less than males!

“There is no Fate that plans men’s lives. Whatever comes to us, good or bad, is usually the result of our own action or lack of action.” – Herbert N. Casson

Besides fighting for economic equality, women are fighting to prevent crimes against women.  Here in the west, we tend to think of crimes against women to be predominantly an issue affecting eastern cultures.  Unfortunately, domestic violence against women and rape against women are both very prevalent crimes in our own society.  According to Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (, every 107 seconds another American is sexually assaulted.  It is important for women to be familiar with the laws in her state regarding rape (see here for CT).  According to a 2003 study done by Violence Against Women Prevention Research, “…one out of every eight adult women, or about 178,000 adult women in Connecticut, has been the victim of forcible rape sometime in her lifetime.” (see here).

“If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing.” — Coco Chanel

For the position of women to change in the world, it is important that the men in the world are educated about the equality of women, are taught that women are to be respected, and do not try to lower her position.  From a young age, schools should teach the importance of respecting women and reinforce women’s rights.  Colleges should also tighten their laws regarding rapes on campus and take stronger steps to prevent rape.

So, this Women’s Day, I smile at the progress women have made, but I look to our future with the hope that my smile will grow wider as women will no longer be the subject of violence and be treated as 100% equals in all aspects of life.

We’re ready to launch!

Over the past few months, I’ve been busy putting finishing touches on my website. I made the logo myself, and put together this website. I applied for my LLC in December 2014, and officially became incorporated on January 20, 2015.  I’m feeling incredibly determined and excited to get my firm off the ground, and especially, to start to put to use my law degree towards making positive change in the world. Looking forward to helping you with your legal needs in the most honest and effective way possible!