The music industry has been abuzz and ablaze for months now after Robin Thicke and Farrell Williams lost their copyright case over their chart-topping summer smash Blurred Lines, which the heirs to the estate of the legendary musician Marvin Gaye have said infringes on his hit Got to Give It Up.
The dispute has roiled creatives with their concern that music always has been a derivative art. More than 200 recording artists have come out in support of Williams and Thicke. They have appealed the two-year-old verdict against them, awarding the Gaye heirs $5.3 million and a big slice of future royalties.
And their case—which lawyers have said would be the first copyright decision of its kind for possible overturning on appeal—appears now to rest on the crucial issue of what U.S. District Judge John A. Kronstadt allowed jurors to consider: recorded versions of Gaye’s work or the “deposit copy” or “lead sheet,” the bare-bones description of the tune on which the family holds its copyright.
Fortunately, for those focused on this hot Entertainment Law case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has offered an excellent resource to hear the recent oral arguments in Pharrell Williams vs. Frankie Gaye. The appellate court, in a technological rarity, records and posts many of its proceedings —a practice that somehow manages to defy other judicial bodies as a public service. Kudos to the Western court for its innovation on behalf of judicial transparency, which, in this instance, also allows not only a robust airing of a critical matter but also a chance to see leading legal practitioners in full-throated action.