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Williams v. Bridgeport Music, Inc.

United States District Court for the Central District of California

October 30, 2014, Decided; October 30, 2014, Filed

LA CV13-06004 JAK (AGRx)




I. Introduction and Procedural Background

Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke, and Clifford Harris, Jr. ("Plaintiffs") composed the hit song "Blurred Lines." Compl., Dkt. 1, ¶ 6. Frankie Christian Gaye, Nona Marvisa Gaye, and Marvin Gaye III ("Defendants") claim an ownership interest in two compositions by Marvin Gaye: "Got to Give It Up" and "After the Dance." Answer of Frankie Christian Gaye and Nona Marvisa Gaye, Dkt. 12, ¶ 11; Answer of Marvin Gaye III, Dkt. 35, ¶ 11. On August 15, 2013, Plaintiffs filed this action seeking a finding under the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201, that "Blurred Lines" does not infringe on the copyright in "Got to Give It Up" or otherwise violate Defendants' rights. Compl., Dkt. 1 at ¶ 4, p. 6. Plaintiffs also sought costs and attorney's fees, and such other and further relief as the court deemed just and proper. Id. On October 30, 2013, [*2]  Nona Marvisa Gaye and Frankie Christian Gaye filed several counterclaims. Dkt. 14. On November 19, 2013, Marvin Gaye III separately filed counterclaims that are substantially similar to those of Nona Marvisa Gaye and Frankie Christian Gaye. Dkt. 36.

The first counterclaim alleges that Plaintiffs, Star Trak Entertainment, Interscope Records, UMG Recordings, Inc., and Universal Music Distribution infringed the copyright to "Got to Give It Up" through their involvement in the recording, reproduction, performance, or sale of "Blurred Lines." Id. ¶¶ 72-91. The second counterclaim alleges that Thicke, Paula Patton, Star Trak, Geffen Records, UMG and Universal Music Distribution, all of whom were involved in the recording, reproduction, performance, or sale of another Thicke song, "Love After War," infringed the copyright to "After the Dance." Id. ¶¶ 92-112. The remaining counterclaims of Nona Marvisa Gaye and Frankie Christian Gaye concerned Sony/ATV Music Publishing Acquisition, Inc., and its subsidiaries EMI April Music, Inc. and Jobete Music Co., Inc., with whom they have since reached a settlement. Dkt. 57. On January 14, 2014, the Court dismissed the claims against these counterclaim-defendants [*3]  with prejudice. Dkts. 57-1, 59.

On July 22, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Summary Judgment ("Motion" (Dkt. 89)) as to both their request for declaratory relief and Defendants' counterclaims.1 Dkt. 89. On September 8, 2014, Defendants filed an opposition (Dkt. 108), which they subsequently amended ("Opposition" (Dkt. 120)).2 On September 22, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a reply ("Reply" (Dkt. 125)). After a hearing on the Motion on October 20, 2014, the matter was taken under submission. Dkt. 129. For the reasons stated in this Order, the Motion is DENIED.

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2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 182240 *; Copy. L. Rep. (CCH) P30,683

Pharrell Williams, et al. v. Bridgeport Music, Inc., et al.

Prior History: Williams v. Bridgeport Music, Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 199374 (C.D. Cal., July 10, 2014)


deposit, similarity, song, Lines, Music, recorded, chord, substantially similar, composition, copying, melodic, bass, Declaration, hooks, pitch, vocal, infringement, sheet music, rhythm, preliminary report, registration, unprotected, keyboard, lyrics, counterclaims, signature, purposes, harmony, summary judgment, progression

Civil Procedure, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Genuine Disputes, Legal Entitlement, Materiality of Facts, Burdens of Proof, Movant Persuasion & Proof, Copyright Law, Civil Infringement Actions, Burdens of Proof, Evidentiary Considerations, Absence of Essential Element, Nonmovant Persuasion & Proof, Appropriateness, Judgments, Evidentiary Considerations, Opposing Materials, Accompanying Documentation, Memoranda in Opposition, Elements, Copying by Defendants, Access, Ownership, Standards for Granting Summary Judgment, Substantial Similarity, Extrinsic Tests, Intrinsic Tests, Scope of Copyright Protection, Publication, Copyright Act of 1909, Copyright Act of 1976, Statutory Copyright & Fixation, Fixation Requirement, General Overview, Subject Matter, Scope of Protection, Deposit & Registration Requirements, Registration, Registration Certificates, Deposits, Governments, Legislation, Effect & Operation, Retrospective Operation, Evidence, Admissibility, Expert Witnesses, Ultimate Issue, Protected Subject Matter, Musical Works, Copyright Infringement Actions, Remedies, Declaratory Judgments, Constitutional Copyright Protections, Copyright Clause, Collective & Derivative Works, Originality Requirement, Limited Protection for Ideas, Musical Arrangements, Testimony