More than 200 musicians, composers and other artists, including Hans Zimmer, Train frontman Patrick Monahan and members of Earth, Wind & Fire and The Go-Go’s, have filed an amicus brief to overturn a $7.4 million copyright infringement verdict over the hit song “Blurred Lines.”
The brief is one of three filed by amicus groups on Wednesday before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke. The pop musicians are appealing last year’s jury verdict that found they ripped off Marvin Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” to make their 2013 smash hit song. The verdict was later reduced to $5.3 million.
In this case, unlike most copyright trials, the jury found infringement based on the “feel” or “groove” of the songs, attorney Edwin McPherson of McPherson Rane in Los Angeles wrote in Wednesday’s amicus brief. And music, more so than film, draws inspiration from the past.
“The verdict in this case threatens to punish songwriters for creating new music that is inspired by prior works,” he wrote. “Many important popular songs in the modern era would not exist today if they were subjected to the same scrutiny as ‘Blurred Lines’ was in this case.”
The brief reads like a who’s who in popular music over the past several decades—among the musicians represented are members of Linkin Park, Tool and Great White, as well as John Oates of Hall & Oates, R. Kelly, Jennifer Hudson, Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes, Brian Burton (Danger Mouse), Curt Smith of Tears for Fears and Poison’s Rikki Rockett.
The “sheer number and stature” of artists supporting Williams and Thicke in the case “make it clear how important this case is to the music industry as a whole,” McPherson wrote in an email.
“We have 212 very influential songwriters, etc. (and more that are contacting me as we speak) that easily could have stayed silent, and simply hoped that a ‘Blurred Lines’ case would not happen to them,” he wrote. “Instead, they chose to speak out.”
In their brief, the musicians also echoed some of the arguments in the appeal filed by Thicke and Williams. The brief said that a “cascade of legal errors” led to a trial in the “Blurred Lines” case that should have focused on elements of the sound recording, rather than the sheet music for Gaye’s 1977 song, the only thing protected under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1909.
Two other amicus briefs filed Wednesday came on behalf of a group of musicologists and Public Knowledge, a nonprofit public interest group in Washington that advocates for access to creative works.
Contact Amanda Bronstad at email@example.com. On Twitter: @abronstadnlj