Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cultural Appropriation and the "Blurred Lines" Case

Toni Lester, Babson College, has published Blurred Lines — Where Copyright Ends and Cultural Appropriation Begins — The Case of Robin Thicke versus Bridgeport Music, and the Estate of Marvin Gaye at 36 Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal 217 (2014). Here is the abstract. 

This article covers the copyright theft lawsuit brought by the family of the great soul singer, Marvin Gaye, against singer/songwriters Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams over their hit, “Blurred Lines”. The case goes to the very heart of how we define what is creative and innovative, the very things that US copyright law is supposed to protect. Courts in the US tend to favor European-influenced melodies over harmonic progressions and African-American influenced rhythms in copyright theft cases. The article explores how this phenomenon has the potential to allow for certain forms of unfair cultural appropriation to take place, and makes some preliminary predictions about the ultimate outcome of the case.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.

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