Marvin Gaye’s family now targeting ‘Happy’ for lawsuit
Less than a week after being awarded more than $7 million for copyright infringement by the song “Blurred Lines,” the family of the late Marvin Gaye are already targeting another Pharrell Williams track to profit from. In what may be the beginning of a very dark time for musicians, Gaye’s daughter Nona said in reference to the similarities between “Happy” and the 1965 Gaye track “Ain’t That Peculiar,” “I’m not going to lie. I do think they sound alike.”
The family is currently attempting to have all sales of “Blurred Lines” stopped until they get a cut, and this new hint that they’ll go after Williams again falls somewhere between a sonic stretch and outright greedy. Many have already made the case that the “Blurred Lines” similarity was questionable at best, and the common sounds between “Happy” and “Ain’t That Peculiar” are even more suspect. Yet the precedent set in the current case could likely make a second one just as financially successful.
The question at hand is whether notes on a page are the same as the sound you actually hear and feel. In the “Blurred Lines” case, jurors were specifically instructed by the judge to only compare the notes on the page, and it’s likely that when appealed, the Thicke/Williams camp will discuss how a sonic sequence on guitar in one time signature is far different from the same sequence on piano with a slower tempo. Along with the sound, one cannot deny there is a “feel” to a song, and this is where the final precedent will be set.
Regardless, the catalog of so many artists like Gaye are constantly used as inspiration to generations of musicians, and when estates decide to get bitter and greedy, it can sadly lead to the tarnishing of the legacy of the artist in question. While there is a three-year statute of limitations for copyright cases, Pharrell may find himself being sought by many other artists who inspired his sound, and these cases will likely set the blueprint for the next century of copyright rulings.
Hear “Happy” and “NEW SONG” spun together and judge for yourself:
UPDATE: The family of Marvin Gaye is now stating outright that they will NOT be taking legal action against “Happy,” contradicting their earlier statements.