Did Robin Thicke Steal "Blurred Lines" From Marvin Gaye?


The family of legendary soul singer Marvin Gaye heard Robin Thicke's summer hit "Blurred Lines" and though it sounded a bit too much like Gaye's 1977 single, "Got to Give It Up." Naturally, a lawsuit came along. But this is where it gets weird — it's Thicke who's suing Gaye's family. 

The Hollywood Reporter got its hands on a copy of Thicke's lawsuit which states, "Plaintiffs, who have the utmost respect for and admiration of Marvin Gaye, Funkadelic and their musical legacies, reluctantly file this action in the face of multiple adverse claims from alleged successors in interest to those artists. Defendants continue to insist that plaintiffs' massively successful composition, 'Blurred Lines,' copies 'their' compositions."  

In other words, Gaye's camp is saying the music has been lifted and Thicke is striking back preemptively and saying no way.

I know artists sample and share material. But when is artistic license just plain stealing? And when should credit (monetary or otherwise) be given?

Check this out. Doesn’t sound to me like the lines are all that blurred.

And here’s the original Marvin Gaye song without the comparison.

So in the face of being sued, Robin Thicke decided to sue to “protect his rights,” arguing that the only thing in common between the two songs is “commonplace musical elements.”

I did the ultimate test of pop music and played the Marvin Gaye song for a couple of 14-year-olds, who bet me their Starbucks money that it was Thicke's "Blurred Lines." So the similarity is not in question. How it’s being handled, though, is what I have a lot of questions about.

It’s scary to think that you can put something out there artistically and have it stolen or repurposed and that copyright law may not protect you. Intellectual property is tricky, I know. Many things can bear a resemblance to many other things and yet the paths and the works of the creators may never have crossed.

But in this case it seems the cross-over is simply too dramatic to be anything short of stealing. So, does the Gaye family deserve compensation? Should Thicke and his fellow “musicians” publicly apologize? And how do we promote sharing and community and collaboration while still protecting the creations of individuals and groups alike?

When it comes to art, just how blurred are the lines really? We are all influenced daily by everything we see and hear and experience. So much so that it’s hard to know where one thought or idea came from.