On Tuesday, a jury awarded almost $7.4 million dollars to Marvin Gaye's family after it found Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams guilty of copyright infringement. As many of you are aware, Glenn used to be a disc jockey and knows a lot about music. This morning on radio, Glenn, Pat, and Stu decided to tackle the case themselves, listening to the different songs. One of Glenn's biggest arguments while listening to the songs was that while the production value was the same, the notes might not be. He said, "This is production value. Does it sound in the ear like that? Well, yes, but I can do a lot of things that sound like that, but it's not. The standard is, put the notes on paper."
In this case, it appears the jury disagreed with Glenn, Pat, Stu, and myself, awarding Marvin Gaye's family the almost $7.4 million. Why do you wonder is this case important to my life? Well, if the case was won based off of general production sound versus the actual plagarism of notes it could change the music industry. Any artist who was inspired by previous artists could inevitably get sued for having music that "sounds like" someone else's music. And honestly, with only so many chords, notes, keys, and rhythms available this could become a mess in the court system.
Stu hit the nail on the head when he mentioned how one cannot copyright a smell, "It's hard to quantify what it is. If it makes you feel that way, it smells kind of like that, it sounds kind of like that song. That's not a standard. That's not a legal standard to award $7.4 million to his family. I think this is wrong."
Hear what Glenn, Pat, and Stu have to say and then make your own decision. Do you think the songs are too close for comfort?
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Rough Transcript Below:
GLENN: Right. Very similar in style. When you listen to it and you say, wow, that sounds like Marvin Gaye. It's because, listen to the -- play the new song. Pharrell.
PAT: Yeah, the "Blurred Lines"?
GLENN: Yeah. Pharrell. Whatever. The beat. And the strong bass line. And the people going by. Hey, hey, hey. Okay. Yes, that does sound like Marvin Gaye, but it's more production value than notes.
GLENN: Listen to this. Play that again. Play that again. Play it from the beginning. Okay, so I could say, listen to this, doesn't this sound like -- this sounds like Marvin Gaye. Right?
Now, listen to when they start singing.
GLENN: Oh, my gosh. They're ripping Prince off.
PAT: It does sound like Prince.
GLENN: So why can't Prince sue and say that sounds like a Prince song?
STU: That's ridiculous to me. You can't do that. It's supposed to be a mechanical measure of music that you can look at on a piece of paper. We've produced original music before. And I've sat in hours and hours with music rights attorneys trying to figure out if A is okay. B is okay. They bring in experts and look at sheet music.
GLENN: They don't listen. This is production value.
GLENN: That's what this is. This is production value. Does it sound in the ear like that? Well, yes, but I can do a lot of things that sound like that, but it's not. The standard is, put the notes on paper. Are they -- and I don't remember what it is. But it's like X-number of notes for so many measures. And if there's X-number of notes that are similar in the first three -- in three measures, then, you know, you're -- you're nailed. Something like that.
STU: Yeah. This is why they say you can't copyright a smell for like a scent if you're doing a perfume. You can't copyright a smell. There's so many smell-alike perfumes out there. A smell. It's hard to quantify what it is. If it makes you feel that way, it smells kind of like that, it sounds kind of like that song. That's not a standard. That's not a legal standard to award $7.4 million to his family. I think this is wrong.
GLENN: I think it's wrong.
PAT: And hopefully they'll lose on appeal. Because this will screw things up if it happens.
GLENN: I'd like to line up the sheet music. I haven't seen it. If the sheet music, if it is indeed, sheet music-wise, if it's the same, well, then you have something.
PAT: Isn't the rule where, the structure figures into it too, but can't you do six notes that are similar, but you have to change the seventh? That's not exact.
GLENN: Something like that.
STU: I believe that was the Vanilla Ice defense that you're describing. Which is, he used to say that it was -- the David Bowie song. Yeah.
PAT: Yeah, it was Queen. David Bowie.
STU: But he said mine is (sound effect). Like, he added one little bass. It's not the same. They don't go that technical. Like, they don't get you on little tiny technicalities like that. When it's a general vibe of a song that sounds pretty similar, I mean, that's not supposed to be millions of dollars. A lot of people recorded a lot of freaking songs.
GLENN: But what's amazing, I was playing Rachmaninoff, and Pat came in the other day, and he's like, what? And he had forgotten that that was the basis of --
PAT: Oh, yeah. Eric Carmen's song. "All by Myself."
GLENN: All by myself [singing] is Rachmaninoff.
STU: Oh, really?
GLENN: Yeah, if I played -- I don't know if I can get sued for playing Rachmaninoff.
PAT: But he licensed it.
GLENN: It said at the bottom parenthetically from Rachmaninoff.
So I'm listening to this. This is classical piano music. The third or fifth piano concerto from Rachmaninoff. I'm listening to it. And he walks in and says, this is Eric Carmen. And I'm like, yeah, it's actually Rachmaninoff, but, yes. And that one sounds exact. It is exact. He actually took that from Rachmaninoff and made a popular song out of it. There's something to be said for -- I mean, how many combinations of notes are there? Something is always going to sound like --
STU: And remember a lot of the combinations of notes don't sound good. The chords. Like there's a certain amount of -- it makes this stuff ridiculous. And it's like -- and the rules are so bizarre. It's like weird Al can do exact to the note parodies because he's covered under parody law which is different from what they're doing. If they were singing that song and making fun of something, they could theoretically be covered.