Marvin Gaye’s family has gone one step further than merely accusing pop star Robin Thicke of ripping off Gaye’s Got to Give it Up for his chart-topping song Blurred Lines.
The family, represented by prominent Nashville entertainment attorney Richard Busch, claimed in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday that Thicke has a pattern of unlawfully borrowing from Gaye, the rhythm and blues legend who died in 1984.
The counterclaim suit, filed in federal court in California, newly accuses Thicke of stealing from Gaye’s After the Dance when he co-wrote the 2011 hit Love After War.
Thicke, along with collaborators Pharrell Williams and T.I., took preemptive legal action in August by asking the court to rule that Blurred Lines did not steal from Got to Give it Up. Both songs topped the charts – Blurred Lines did so earlier this year and Gaye’s hit reached No. 1 in 1977.
DOCUMENT: Read the Gaye family lawsuit
“We have investigated this matter fully, took great care with the allegations and have put together a comprehensive pleading that speaks for itself,” Busch said. “We look forward to presenting this case to the court and jury who can hear the songs themselves.”
Quoting music critics and experts, the family accused Thicke of having a Marvin Gaye fixation. The Gaye family asked for an injunction requiring Thicke and his collaborators on the two songs to cease infringing on Gaye’s copyrights, and for unspecified damages.
“Got to Give it Up is not the only Marvin Gaye classic that has been unlawfully copied by Thicke,” the suit alleges.
By telling several music publications that Got to Give it Up inspired Blurred Lines, Thicke attracted the attention of Gaye’s fans and increased the marketability of the song, the suit claims.
In his August filing, Thicke argued that copyright infringement doesn’t take place because two songs “feel” the same. Thicke has admitted in media interviews that Gaye’s song helped inspire him during the writing process for Blurred Lines, but argued in his suit that the melody, bass lines, lyrics and other components of the song are original. An expert report, filed as an exhibit to the Gaye family’s counterclaim, refutes that assertion.
Thicke claimed in his initial filing that representatives from the Gaye family notified him and his co-writers that if a settlement wasn’t paid, they would pursue legal action, so Thicke filed a preemptive lawsuit.
“Being reminiscent of a sound is not copyright infringement,” Thicke, Williams and T.I. asserted in their August suit. “The intent in producing Blurred Lines was to evoke an era. In reality, the Gaye defendants are claiming ownership of an entire genre.”
Thicke called the legal dispute “weird” in a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey since Gaye is one of his musical idols.
But Wednesday’s counterclaim by the Gaye family claimed Thicke has turned his idolization into a pattern of stealing from Gaye’s songs. The suit referenced Thicke’s Make You Love Me including a similar bridge and identical lyrics to Gaye’s I Want You, though that song is not at issue in the counterclaim.
However, the suit did name Thicke and co-writer Paula Maxine Patton for copyright infringement for their song Love After War. Thicke, Williams, T.I. (real name Clifford Joseph Harris) and their publishing companies, were sued for Blurred Lines. The Gaye family also sued Geffen Records, which released Thicke’s Love After War and Interscope Records, which released Blurred Lines.
In another twist in the legal dispute, the Gaye family also sued EMI, which was assigned by the family to administer the copyrights for Gaye’s music. The family argued that EMI has a conflict of interest because it is also Williams’ co-publisher.
“EMI has breached its agreement, including the covenants of good faith and fair dealing, and its fiduciary duties to the Gaye family by not only failing and refusing to pursue the infringements identified herein, but actively attempting to interfere with and thwart the Gaye family’s pursuit of these claims,” the family’s lawsuit states.
By Nate Rau