A day after a Los Angeles jury decided Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke‘s song “Blurred Lines” infringed upon the copyright of Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up” and awarded the soul and R&B icon’s children Marvin III, Nona and Frankie almost $7.4 million, the namesake and eldest of the Gaye siblings talked to TheWrap along with his attorney Paul Philips.
Taking us from the moment they first heard the song “Blurred Lines” to how they felt about the songwriters and the verdict, Gaye and Philips gave a bird’s-eye view of before, during and after the “Blurred Lines” trial.
TheWrap: What were you feeling when you first heard the song “Blurred Lines?”
Gaye: When I first heard it — I saw on it on TV or something — and I thought it was a tribute to my dad’s song, and so I had an emotional attachment to it, and I liked it, you know? I thought it was cool and then, later on, I come to find out it wasn’t licensed properly and that there might be a couple of issues that are on the table, but we didn’t have time to think about it. By that time, we received a lawsuit. They should have contacted us and done it properly.
Philips: I heard
Some people didn’t know that, in fact, it was the Thicke-Williams side that filed the complaint first, seeking a declaratory judgment from the federal court that “Blurred Lines” didn’t infringe upon “Got to Give It Up.”
Gaye: That being the case, we were faced with going on a mission that we hadn’t signed up for.
Were you hoping to settle and not have to go to trial?
Gaye: Of course, we had mediations, but they seemed to really continue to disrespect us, and we didn’t think the settlement negotiations were sincere. They thought that we’re nobody, and we don’t know anybody who can give us good advice, and so they proceeded to insult us basically.
How did you feel during the case? You were forced to miss days from the trial.
Gaye: Yes, I got a kidney transplant, and I’m a year into recovery. I have a maintenance program that needs to be tended to. I’m still under constant evaluation to make sure everything is operating properly.
How did you feel just before the verdict was issued? Tense?
Gaye: I wasn’t tense. I was at a hotel relaxing and getting prepared for whatever the judgment would be and I was keeping my mind right and in a solid serene place.
How did you feel when the verdict was read out loud to the court?
Gaye: I felt relieved. It was a weight off my shoulders and my brother and sister, and if it wasn’t for Jan
Philips: I felt fantastic. I sort of looked at his case as a victory for the arts really. This was about the Gaye family protecting the sanctity of their father’s art. There is money issued along with that finding, which is righteous. Obviously, Robin and Pharrell earned money due to the efforts of Marvin Gaye, but, really, underlying the case is that Marvin, Nona and Frankie could fight what their father couldn’t fight for.
Were you worried when the judge would not allow the commercial sound recording of “Got to Give It Up” to be used in the case?
Gaye: Yes, I was, because that was a major blow. I couldn’t understand. It’s the first time in history something like this has ever been done where one party can play their whole song, and we were limited to playing the song on piano or showing it on a chalkboard. The jury doesn’t understand music. I didn’t see how that was going to work in our favor, but we had such a strong case and such a strong team, that they made it happen.
Philips: It was a giant blow to our side of the case, and it created the steepest part of the hill for us. We thought we could overcome it, but that was the toughest blow, and we had no option but to continue to fight. It says a lot about the fortitude of the Gaye family to have stuck through it despite that ruling.
Are you worried about the Thicke parties filing an appeal?
Gaye: No, I’m not worried at all because the thing is that if we could accomplish what we did with what we had I’m sure the next time around — if there is a next time — that we can’t have any less or worse than that. If we can win this fight with the tools we had, against their arsenal like that, I’m not worried about something else coming in the future.
Philips: We lost so many evidentiary rulings along the way. In this case, I don’t think they’re left with anything to appeal. I don’t see a good legal ground for it. The appeal is the first thought of the unsuccessful party. That is a natural reaction.
Are you aware of the statement that Pharrell’s spokesperson issued yesterday saying, “You will hear more from us soon about this matter?”
Gaye: Of course they will say something like that. They want to act like they are in the right and that they got some injustice of some kind.
What is the main message from the verdict of this trial?
Gaye: I think what the message is is that people who are calling themselves musicians or producers or whatever need to pay attention to the hard work of other people if they’re going to use it in any way, shape or form. At the same time, this might make those people get credits and gain expertise in what they are doing as far as talent goes.
Do you think the outcome of this case will limit artists saying they were inspired by other artists?
Gaye: No. But I can’t tell you what anybody is going to say or think. The bottom line is that you don’t have to say anything. The proof will be in the work.
Marvin wasn’t there for Pharrell and Robin’s testimony. What did you think of them in the courtroom and on the stand?
Philips: It appeared to me there was tension between Pharrell and Robin. They sat in the courtroom, sat at opposite sides of the table and didn’t look at each other. There was certainly tension when Pharrell was being questioned and when Robin was being questioned. Part of the unconscious strategy that went through their case was avoiding answers or answering in a way that would help them out at the time, regardless of if you change your answers later. Robin smiled through 99 percent of his presence in the courtroom. I’m not really sure what was behind that.
Listen, by the time we got to trial, Robin Thicke had changed his testimony three times, so the fact that he testified at trial that he had changed his story again — in that he said he was never there when the sound recording was made and that what sparked him to say that he wasn’t there was reading testimony of Pharrell’s — was helpful for us. I didn’t think the jury had any doubt that they couldn’t rely on a single thing Robin Thicke said.