Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Marvin Gaye "Blurred Lines" Ruling Leads to Rash of Infringement Suits

A jury in Los Angeles ruled Tuesday that musicians Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and T.I. must pay $4.7 million dollars for copyright infringement with their song "Blurred Lines," which was found to borrow from Marvin Gaye's 1977 hit "Got to Give It Up."  This is a significant ruling, which has set a new precedent in copyright infringement proceedings - that even the slightest similarity between two songs can be used as evidence of infringement.  This has quite predictably led to a deluge of similar lawsuits.

The W.C. Handy estate was the first to jump on the bandwagon.  The family of Handy, who is considered to be the "father of the Blues," is now suing every musical artist that has ever used the 12-bar blues form or the blues scale.  Defendants in the case include these individuals or their estates: Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Bessie Smith, the Rolling Stones, and many others, including just about anyone who has ever picked up a guitar.

Also throwing down the gauntlet are the descendants of Adolphe Sax.  Sax, who lived from 1814-1894 was a Belgian musical instrument designer who invented the saxophone.  Although their lawsuit covers a multitude of saxophonists, the primary defendant is Kenny G, who the Sax family claim has not only received millions of dollars in compensation for his use of their ancestor's invention, but has furthermore "given the soprano sax a really bad rap."

It has also been reported this morning that the descendants of Guido d'Arezzo have filed suit against the Rodgers & Hammerstein Library over alleged copyright infringement in the musical The Sound of Music.  The 1959 musical, which won multiple Tony Awards including Best Musical, is perhaps best known for the von Trapp Family Singers singing the song "Do-Re-Mi."  Guido d'Arezzo, who lived c. 991-c.1033 was a Medieval music theorist who invented the musical staff and a system of pitch solmization known as solf├Ęge, where the notes of the scale are sung as do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do.  The d'Arezzo family claims that the song "Do-Re-Mi" is blatant infringement of their ancestor's solmization system.

"We are feeling very hopeful about the lawsuit," states descendant Giuseppe d'Arezzo, "If this works out, we are looking into suing everyone that has every printed music on a staff.  Those five sacred lines are clearly the sole property of my great, great, great, great, great, great... grandfather."

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