On Monday, Marvin Gaye’s children delivered a special audio message to a California federal judge.
Per The Hollywood Reporter, Nona Gaye, Frankie Gaye and Marvin Gaye III have now filed their summary judgment papers in a lawsuit over “Blurred Lines” and are pointing the judge to recorded depositions and media interviews given by producer Pharrell Williams and singer Robin Thicke. The children have also submitted an audio mash-up that’s intended to serve as “concrete musical illustrations of the substantial similarities” between last year’s huge hit and Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up.”
According to THR’s Eriq Gardner, the family’s submitted evidence is “quite possibly the first time ever in a courtroom that a mash-up has been exploited to prove copyright infringement.”
In the recording, the vocal material of “Blurred Lines” plays over the instrumental of “Got to Give It Up,” and vice versa. “This material sounds like a perfect, natural match because it blends sonically,” says the summary judgment memorandum.
If that’s not enough, the Gayes have two expert musicologists describing eight substantial similarities: “(1) the signature phrase in the main vocal melodies; (2) the hooks; (3) the hooks with backup vocals; (4) the core theme in ‘Blurred Lines’ and backup hook in ‘Got to Give it Up’; (5) the backup hooks; (6) the bass melodies; (7) the keyboard parts; and (8) the unusual percussion choices.”
As a preemptive strike, the plaintiffs dismissed these as “unprotectable, commonplace ideas,” but the counterclaimants retort they are distinctive. Take the bass melodies, for instance. Both songs are said by the musicologists to have “two-measure phrases, which leave space in the middle of each of the bars, rhythms, and points of harmonic arrival. This is not simply an element of a genre, as it is unusual to have bass lines in R&B that leave this much space in the middle of the bar.”
The Gayes also reject the notion that other songs constitute prior art. War’s “Low Rider” isn’t “rhythmically similar,” they say; Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly” isn’t “consistent with the disco pattern in the songs here”; and the cowbell on Lipps Inc.’s “Funkytown” “plays continuous sixteenth notes rather than a Latin time keeping rhythm.”
The full summary judgment papers, available at The Hollywood Reporter’s website, also argue why Thicke’s “Love After War” should be seen as an infringement of Gaye’s “After the Dance.” Finally, attorneys for the Gaye children attempt to convince U.S. District Judge John Kronstadt on the legal standards on which to weigh both songs when ruling.
“They filed papers insulting the family of the great Marvin Gaye,” says Busch. “We responded with the facts and the law. Beyond that, everything we have to say is in our papers, including the expert reports and audio files submitted therewith.”
The decision should be coming in the coming months. A jury trial has been scheduled for Feb. 10, 2015.