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Williams v. Gaye

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

October 6, 2017, Argued and Submitted, Pasadena, California; March 21, 2018, Filed

No. 15-56880, No. 16-55089, No. 16-55626

Opinion

 [*1159]  [***1108]   M. SMITH, Circuit Judge:

After a seven-day trial and two days of deliberation, a jury found that Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke, and Clifford Harris, Jr.'s song "Blurred Lines," the world's best-selling single in 2013, infringed Frankie Christian Gaye, Nona Marvisa Gaye, and Marvin Gaye III's copyright in Marvin Gaye's 1977 hit song "Got To Give It Up." Three consolidated appeals followed.

Appellants and Cross-Appellees Williams, Thicke, Harris, and More Water from Nazareth Publishing, Inc. (collectively, Thicke Parties) appeal from the district court's judgment. They urge us to reverse the district court's denial of their motion for summary judgment and direct the district court to enter judgment in their favor. In the alternative, they ask us to vacate the judgment and remand the case for a new trial, on grounds of instructional error, improper admission of expert testimony, and lack of evidence supporting the verdict. If a new trial is not ordered, they request that we reverse or vacate the jury's awards of actual damages and infringer's profits, and the district court's imposition of a running royalty. Finally, they seek reversal of the [**6]  judgment against Harris, challenging the district court's decision to overturn the jury's general verdict finding in Harris's favor.

Appellants and Cross-Appellees Interscope Records, UMG Recordings, Inc., Universal Music Distribution, and Star Trak, LLC (collectively, Interscope Parties) appeal from the district court's judgment. They urge us to reverse the judgment  [*1160]  against them, challenging the district court's decision to overturn the jury's general verdict finding in their favor.

Appellees and Cross-Appellants Frankie Christian Gaye, Nona Marvisa Gaye, and Marvin Gaye III (collectively, Gayes) appeal from the district court's order on attorney's fees and costs. They request that we vacate and remand for reconsideration the district court's denial of attorney's fees, and award them their costs in full. The Gayes also protectively cross-appeal the district court's ruling limiting the scope of the Gayes' compositional copyright to the four corners of the sheet music deposited with the United States Copyright Office. In the event a new trial is ordered, the Gayes urge us to hold that Marvin Gaye's studio recording of "Got To Give It Up," rather than the deposit copy, establishes the [**7]  scope of the Gayes' copyright under the Copyright Act of 1909.

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885 F.3d 1150 *; 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 7057 **; 126 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1105 ***; Copy. L. Rep. (CCH) P31,246; 2018 WL 1403577

PHARRELL WILLIAMS, an individual; CLIFFORD HARRIS, JR., an individual; ROBIN THICKE, an individual, DBA I Like'em Thicke Music, Plaintiffs-Counter-Defendants-Appellants, and MORE WATER FROM NAZARETH PUBLISHING, INC.; STAR TRAK ENTERTAINMENT; INTERSCOPE RECORDS; UMG RECORDINGS, INC.; UNIVERSAL MUSIC DISTRIBUTION, Counter-Defendants-Appellants, v. FRANKIE CHRISTIAN GAYE, an individual; MARVIN GAYE III, an individual; NONA MARVISA GAYE, an individual, Defendants-Counter-Claimants-Appellees.PHARRELL WILLIAMS, an individual; CLIFFORD HARRIS, JR., an individual; ROBIN THICKE, an individual, DBA I Like'em Thicke Music, Plaintiffs-Counter-Defendants-Appellees, and MORE WATER FROM NAZARETH PUBLISHING, INC.; STAR TRAK ENTERTAINMENT; INTERSCOPE RECORDS; UMG RECORDINGS, INC.; UNIVERSAL MUSIC DISTRIBUTION, Counter-Defendants-Appellees, v. FRANKIE CHRISTIAN GAYE, an individual; MARVIN GAYE III, an individual; NONA MARVISA GAYE, an individual, Defendants-Counter-Claimants-Appellants.PHARRELL WILLIAMS, an individual; ROBIN THICKE, an individual, DBA I Like'em Thicke Music; CLIFFORD HARRIS, JR., an individual, Plaintiffs-Counter-Defendants-Appellees, and MORE WATER FROM NAZARETH PUBLISHING, INC.; STAR TRAK ENTERTAINMENT; INTERSCOPE RECORDS; UMG RECORDINGS, INC.; UNIVERSAL MUSIC DISTRIBUTION, Counter-Defendants-Appellees. v. FRANKIE CHRISTIAN GAYE, an individual; MARVIN GAYE III, an individual; NONA MARVISA GAYE, an individual, Defendants-Counter-Claimants-Appellants.

Subsequent History: As Amended March 24, 2018.

Modified by, Rehearing, en banc, denied by Williams v. Gaye, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 18953 (9th Cir. Cal., July 11, 2018)

Modified by Williams v. Gaye, 895 F.3d 1106, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 18954 (9th Cir. Cal., July 11, 2018)

Prior History:  [**1] D.C. No. 2:13-cv-06004-JAK-AGR. D.C. No. 2:13-cv-06004-JAK-AGR. D.C. No. 2:13-cv-06004-JAK-AGR.

Williams v. Bridgeport Music, Inc., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 193633 (C.D. Cal., Apr. 12, 2016)Williams v. Bridgeport Music, Inc., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97262 (C.D. Cal., July 14, 2015)

Disposition: AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART.

CORE TERMS

district court, Lines, Parties, deposit, Blurred, substantially similar, similarity, musical, songs, infringement, bass, pitches, extrinsic, unprotectable, sound recording, new trial, Signature, copyright protection, matter of law, compositions, keyboard, copying, rhythm, phrases, chords, Hook, profits, lyrics, musical composition, general verdict

Copyright Law, Elements, Copying by Defendants, Access, Copyright Infringement Actions, Civil Infringement Actions, Burdens of Proof, Ownership, Copying by Defendants, Substantial Similarity, Substantial Similarity, Extrinsic Tests, Intrinsic Tests, Subject Matter, Statutory Copyright & Fixation, Expression & Idea Distinguished, Scope of Copyright Protection, Subject Matter, Originality Requirement, Protected Subject Matter, Musical Works, Scope of Protection, Scope of Copyright Protection, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Allocation, Musical Works, Sound Recordings After 1972, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Summary Judgment Review, Appealability, Appellate Jurisdiction, Final Judgment Rule, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Judgments, Relief From Judgments, Motions for New Trials, De Novo Review, Reversible Errors, Admissibility, Procedural Matters, Rulings on Evidence, Judicial Review, Weight & Sufficiency, Damages, Types of Damages, Infringement Profits, Remedies, Measurement of Damages, Clearly Erroneous Review, Preliminary Considerations, Equity, Relief, Trials, Judgment as Matter of Law, Jury Trials, Verdicts, Inconsistent Verdicts, Judgment as Matter of Law, Preverdict Judgment, Postverdict Judgment, Elements, Secondary Liability, Vicarious Liability Actions, Costs & Attorney Fees, Attorney Fees & Expenses, Costs