Blurred Lines of Copyright

So recently music artist Robin Thicke has been sued for the hit song “Blurred Lines” as it allegedly rips off Marvin Gaye’s song “Got To Give It Up” from the 1970’s. If you haven’t heard about it, check out this article here.

In the article it is evident that Thicke has copied certain elements of the song. I since have listened to both songs and decided that yes, they are similar, but I wouldn’t consider “Blurred Lines” a straight rip off from the original song by Gaye.

Compare the songs yourself below!

However, coming from a background in visual arts I see “Blurred Lines” as merely an appropriation of the original song. With all the “loop holes” in copyright laws nowadays how can we distinguish between what is appropriation vs what is straight out copying?

Kory Grow 2015, Robin Thicke, Pharrell Lose Multi-Million Dollar ‘Blurred Lines’ Lawsuit, Rolling Stone, viewed 17 March 2015, <http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/robin-thicke-and-pharrell-lose-blurred-lines-lawsuit-20150310&gt;

Gaye, 1977, Marvin Gaye – Got to give it up, 9 June, viewed 17 March 2015, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdnyrnLXFhg&gt;

Thicke, 2013, Robin Thicke – Blurred Lines ft. T.I., Pharrell, viewed 17 March 2015, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyDUC1LUXSU&gt;

Majstorovic, M 2015, Blurred Lines Meme, Imgur, viewed 17 March 2015.

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7 Replies to “Blurred Lines of Copyright”

  1. So I have a visual arts background too and in high school we were definitely always encouraged to appropriate and recontextualise other artwork. But since entering university I’ve found visual arts is probably the ONLY place academia will let you get away with this kind of “copying”. Music, writing and other media is moving away from appropriation. Otherwise you could say a DJ remixing a previous hit is also appropriation, or groups such as Norwegian recycling or Glee mashing up songs is also appropriation – and this media content is celebrated. Maybe the question becomes, “when is appropriation appropriate?” because it’s becoming really hard to know.

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  2. You have provided a very good example of copyright by using the “Blurred Lines” case. I wasn’t even aware of this issue, and after watching both videos i’m ver surprised at the similarity. But, now this raises even more questions about copyright for me;
    Is such a small ‘copy’ really such a big issue? And is coincidence also deemed as copying? I agree with you with you that “Blurred Lines” is more of an appropriation, but if even this isn’t allowed anymore, then what is? Furthermore, what is the point of doing anything if you’re at such a high risk of being sued for copyright?
    Your blog has made me realise just how strict and unfair copyright laws really are. Also, feel free to copy my comment!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When I originally heard the songs one after the other the only similarities I noticed were in the backing track and the, for lack of a better word ‘whooing’. But on closer inspection of the lyrics there are similarities. Most notably the subject of both songs seems to be about ‘getting’ a girl. But as to the question of if ‘Blurred Lines’ is an appropriation or copying. On the one hand I believe ‘Blurred Lines’ is different enough that it would fall into the category of appropriation, I do feel empathy for Marvin Gaye as ‘Blurred Lines’ was so popular and i don’t imagine it wold have been hard to ask permission if they have borrowed from ‘Gotta give it up’ intentionally.

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  4. An interesting concept on copyright in the Music industry. I don’t think there’s any doubting the similarity between the two songs and I understand that your background in Visual Arts would lead you to the conclusion of appropriation. Having written a simular article using the Men At Work lawsuit, I think the overlying question in regards to this subject “is how close is too close” when it comes to using others music as the basis of creating ones own.

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  5. There is definitely some prominent similarities between the two sings however their are a lot of artist that “have been inspired” by the works of the predecessors and thus the legal lines are “blurred” and inconsistent.

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