A jury might have ruled in favor of Marvin Gaye‘s family in the highly publicized “Blurred Lines” lawsuit, but the legal battle continues. As he promised, Richard Busch, the attorney representing the Gaye family, filed a post-trial motion to stop the sales of the Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I. song so they could negotiate future revenue shares. He also filed a motion asking for a judge to make T.I. and labels associated with Universal Music Group liable along with the other “Blurred Lines” writers after the jury removed them from its ruling.
“This case is far from over,” Howard King, the lawyer for Thicke, Williams and T.I., wrote in a new motion, asking the judge to slow things down and dismiss the Gaye family’s filings. “It is merely entering a new phase.”
The drama surrounding the case is still unfolding fast, making it difficult to keep track of all the moving parts. An even bigger chore is translating the legalese into easy-to-understand terms. With that, Rolling Stone spoke to multiple lawyers and industry figures connected to the case to lay out the facts about what lies ahead.
Robin Thicke, Pharrell and T.I. might not be done with court just yet.
The jury’s decision covered only past sales of “Blurred Lines” and did not award the Gayes a revenue percentage going forward. In paperwork filed by Busch, the lawyer representing Nona Gaye, Frankie Gaye and Marvin Gaye III, he claims his clients may have to “re-litigate the infringement at least every three years,” because of the Copyright act’s statute of limitations. A set royalty would nip that in the bud.
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The Gayes want to erase “Blurred Lines”…for now.
Busch filed a motion asking a judge to stop all sales of “Blurred Lines” while they negotiate a writing credit for Marvin Gaye on the song so the late singer’s family can share in future revenues. Here’s where it gets tricky: The Gayes’ win covers the copyright to the composition “Blurred Lines,” but not the recording. Since the record labels – which include Universal Music Group and Pharrell Williams’ Star Trak – are distributing a recording of the composition, the lawyer says they are contributing to Williams’ and Thicke’s infringement.
In one of the more confusing turns in the Gayes’ injunction request, their lawyer claims that Universal should not be allowed to distribute the song without the Gayes’ consent, since they’ve established a copyright stake in it. Even though the “Blurred Lines” jury found Universal not guilty of infringement – since their copyright pertains to the sound recording and not the composition itself – Busch says the Gayes have a right to weigh in on how the composition gets distributed.
To get an injunction, Busch will have to show that the Gayes are suffering “irreparable harm.” In the filing, he claims that the “Blurred Lines” team would continue to infringe on Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” unless the court steps in. One thing stopping an injunction could be Busch’s desire for his clients to get a royalty on “Blurred Lines,” since it might constitute a solution.
The Gayes want T.I. to be liable, too.
Although the jury did not find T.I. guilty of infringement, a separate motion that Busch filed asks the judge to declare that “all members of the distribution chain,” including T.I. and the labels who distribute the song, to be held liable. The songwriting credit for “Blurred Lines” broke down to Thicke owning 22 percent of the song, Williams 65 percent and T.I. 13 percent. Busch claims that T.I. played a role in the “creation, manufacture and distribution” of the song and consequently violated the Gayes’ right to create a new version of their own composition. The Gayes want the judge to “correct” the jury’s verdict and order T.I. to fork over some of his royalties, too.
The Gayes’ post-trial motions are something for a judge to decide, not a jury.
Both of Busch’s motions use the language as “a matter of law.” Cornell University Law School translates this turn of phrase to mean a judgment “after finding that no reasonable jury could reach a different conclusion.” Essentially, because the jury decided that T.I. and the record labels were not liable, the Gayes want the judge to say that contrary to the jury’s decision – because of the law – they indeed are. A new motion by the “Blurred Lines” writers’ lawyer suggests this request does not comply with federal rules.
The “Blurred Lines” writers say the Gayes aren’t playing fairly.
A new motion by King, the lawyer representing the “Blurred Lines” songwriters, claims that the Gayes’ request for an injunction and to make T.I. and the labels liable would “entirely overturn the jury’s verdict.” The paperwork suggests that Busch would not be able stop the sale of “Blurred Lines” without the labels or T.I. being liable and called those motions “not only groundless [but] procedurally infirm.” Since only Williams and Thicke were found guilty of infringement, King said they’re the only ones who could be enjoined.
He also said the Gayes aren’t following federal rules of procedure, and complained that Busch cited a law from 1844, which predates federal rules of civil procedure by more than a century. “The jury verdict against Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke is an abject miscarriage of justice, unsupported by the evidence and contrary to the law,” the motion says.
These new developments won’t be resolved immediately.
Busch submitted the paperwork for these new legal motions this week. King responded with a motion requesting the judge to dismiss both of Busch’s motions and to set a “status conference,” where both sides would determine when to proceed. He wants time to meet with his clients on the possibility of a new trial and other issues before moving forward and called the Gayes’ motions “unfair tactics” to move things along before he could meet with his clients. “There is no reason for a ‘rush job,'” he wrote. He also hopes to allow time for the labels to find separate counsel if they want it. The judge has yet to determine a timeline for any necessary hearings, pleadings and decisions. It will all unfold from there.