In 2013, Marvin Gaye’s estate sued Robin Thicke, T.I. (Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr.), and Pharrell Williams, claiming that their smash hit “Blurred Lines” stole from Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give It Up,” as well as from Funkadelic’s “Sexy Ways” from 1974. Though Thicke and Pharrell were found guilty as songwriters, there are no proven musical similarities between the two songs. The jury was influenced by the “feel” and “groove” of the two works, components that are not protected under copyright law. Many musicians and legal experts were concerned that this decision set a dangerous legal precedent and blurred the lines of what musical elements are protectable.
“Artists of the early 1700s did not wear their lives on their sleeves… Their goal was not to expose the hidden and the personal but to replicate the empirical and the universal; their domain was not the unconscious but the observable world.”