Journal of Intellectual Property Law


In December 2018, panic spread throughout the music industry in light of headlines reporting that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s verdict that the 2013 hit song “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams infringed Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up,” released in 1977. In addition to the tremendous $5.3 million award ordered for the Gaye estate, the Blurred Lines Case resulted in fear that the holding could create precedent for allowing the “style” or “groove” of a song to be considered subject to copyright. Since then, industry insiders, lawyers, and commentators have feared that the decision set precedent for a radical expansion of copyright protection, and thus, a chilling effect on creativity among songwriters. The largely unaddressed question, however, is what does this decision mean for other areas of copyright law? Through a thorough evaluation of the current landscape of copyright law, this note analyzes the possibility of this apparent trend spreading into other areas of copyright, specifically film and motion pictures. Given findings that this trend appears to be contained to the music industry, this note asserts that a disparity of treatment of protected works exists under copyright, and introduces an inquiry as to whether this disparity should exist.