With the flood gates down and the increased flow of music from artists all over the world, many thanks to the internet, you can’t help but wonder if originality will ever cease to exist. How long can we go on without finding ourselves unintentionally borrowing another artist’s ideas? Is it possible to be completely original anymore? More importantly, must copyright adjust and how? How can we define (in legal terms) the difference between influence and theft? Allusion vs. infringement?
Despite the difference between a musical style’s influence on your music (which can’t be helped) and straight up theft (which can), the two cannot be clearly distinguished. As in the case of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up” the similarity is undeniable. Was it intentional? Did Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams try to steel from Marvin Gaye? One can argue the likelihood of such a scenario, but it comes down to this. Give credit where credit is due. Support your fellow artists, especially if they are part of what inspired you to follow your dreams and live them. It’s the least you can do.
The article above states that the lawsuit over “Blurred Lines” only ever occurred because it was a major hit, hence major profits. A song makes money and everyone wants in! Alright, I’m not going to play dumb and say we’re all super altruistic and forget the money, but there is another side to this.
The author makes a point that you don’t hear blues songs being fought over when just about every song has the same rhythmic and chordal progression. You can’t copyright structure and characteristics of a genre or chord progressions! Also, these songs are not as well distributed among the ears of us sentient beings as a song like “Blurred Lines” is. No one person can be aware of every song in existence. If “Blurred Lines” was as obscure as most songs are, the Marvin Gaye estate might not have ever heard of it and known it existed. None of us would have. Pure and simple…