- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2016

A diverse array of musicians from genres ranging from rock to classical to hip hop are joining forces in federal court, hoping to overturn what they see as a dangerous precedent which threatens their livelihood.

The Hollywood Reporter explained on Tuesday that “212 of them filed an amicus brief with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the bid by Williams, Thicke and rapper T.I (aka Clifford Harris Jr.) to overturn the $5.3 million final judgment” in a civil suit which determined the 2013 hit song “Blurred Lines” infringed on copyrights associated with the late R&B singer Marvin Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give It Up.”

“The legal brief has enough big names attached to throw one hell of a concert,” the Reporter quipped on Tuesday. “Among those who are acting as ‘friends’ to the appellants are members of Train, Linkin Park, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Black Crowes, Fall Out Boy, Tool and Tears for Fears as well as Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, John Oates of Hall & Oates, R. Kelly, Hans Zimmer, Jennifer Hudson, Jean Baptiste, Evan Bogart and Brian Burton (Danger Mouse).”

In March 2015, a jury in federal District Court in California found for the family of the late Mr. Gaye and awarded damages of $7.4 million. A federal judge cut that figure down to $5.3 million four months later.

While attorneys for Mr. Williams and Mr. Thicke filed a fairly narrow, technical appeal in court on August 24, the Reporter explained, the amicus curiae, or friend-of-the-court, brief signed by the 212 musicians focused on the broader creative implications of the precedent set by the lawsuit. “They’re warning the 9th Circuit about a potential chilling effect,” said the Reporter.

You might say these musicians are worried that the jury’s verdict, if allowed to stand, will make dangerously “Blurred Lines” of copyright case law.

“The verdict in this case threatens to punish songwriters for creating new music that is inspired by prior works,” the Reporter quoted from the amicus brief written by attorney Ed McPherson. “All music shares inspiration from prior musical works, especially within a particular musical genre. By eliminating any meaningful standard for drawing the line between permissible inspiration and unlawful copying, the judgment is certain to stifle creativity and impede the creative process. The law should provide clearer rules so that songwriters can know when the line is crossed, or at least where the line is.”

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