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Did that work simply inspire, or did it induce copying?

On Behalf of | Apr 23, 2019 | Intellectual Property

You’re likely not paranoid if you are a singer-songwriter concerned that third parties might come after you for damages, claiming that work you know you independently created is their intellectual property.

Not even remotely delusional.

In fact, being stressed by that possibility would merely connect you to an ever-growing band (no pun intended) of musical artists who confess to being unnerved these days by recurrent stories of copyright infringement cases. Those matters often involve third-party allegations of stealing musical creations that many industry commentators say wouldn’t have been taken seriously in courts just a few years ago.

Enter Blurred Lines: What is the big concern?

Pop music stars Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams penned the number-one hit “Blurred Lines” a few years back, thinking logically enough that they would bask in its post-creation glory.

They didn’t expect the lawsuit.

That litigation came from an earlier camp of writers. Those persons alleged that Thicke and Williams unlawfully ripped them off via a liberal lifting of specific passages from a former best-selling song. The Blurred Lines composers argued otherwise, stressing that the two works were merely of a similar genre and style.

Things then got, well, a bit blurry. Ultimately, the Thicke/Williams team lost. A national publication’s spotlighting of the case notes the “detailed and esoteric testimony” that featured at trial from “expert” witnesses. Many case commentators believe that jurors got it wrong with the $5 million in infringement damages they assessed against the defendants.

One federal judge dissenting on appeal stated that the plaintiffs were able “to accomplish what no one has done before: copyright a musical style.”

What has the Blurred Lines outcome spawned in its wake?

That header query can be answered by a single word: confusion.

In fact, legions of musical artists are expressing deep concerns over creative expression and related liability concerns in the case’s aftermath.

“I shouldn’t be thinking about legal precedent when I am trying to write a chorus,” says one prominent songwriter.

Another industry principal stresses the degree to which the case result has “unnerved” good-faith artistic creators. He makes the central point that creative people do not work in a vacuum; rather, they are obviously influenced by works that have preceded their own, and must have some license to express themselves.

There are “only so many notes in the scale, and influence is essential to the art,” he says.

What can artists concerned with infringement claims do?

The Blurred Lines outcome and many similar jury verdicts in its wake have understandably bred a look-over-your-shoulder mentality among musical creators lacking the slightest intent to steal the intellectual property of other parties.

It is a litigious world, especially in California, an epicenter of the music industry. Concerned songwriters and other artists might reasonably want to timely enlist the proven counsel of experienced Los Angeles-area intellectual property attorneys that routinely protect the rights of valued and diverse industry clients.

Creative expression fundamentally enriches society. It needs to be strenuously safeguarded.