The Robin Thicke/Pharrell Williams vs Gaye estate verdict is a complete joke. The judge said that the case was to be decided on the ‘sheet music’ aspects of the song, and they are completely different. Different melody, different harmony. You can’t play those two songs on a piano and say one’s a copy of the other. That’s rubbish.
Of course Thicke and Williams ripped off the vibe. You don’t need to be a musician to tell that. The whole feel of the song, the drum beat, the electric piano sound (and a bit of the e. piano bassline), the high vocal, the party atmosphere in the background, they’re obviously all very similar, and you might feel that Thicke and Williams deserved to lose for that reason alone. But decisions like this don’t just concern those in the trial, they concern every composer in the world. If two songs that are so dissimilar are said to be copies, then disaster lies ahead. I really hope this verdict gets overturned on appeal (I’ll be amazed if it doesn’t). It never should have gone to trial. Why didn’t the court consult some compositional experts beforehand, who could have told them to throw it out?
Bob Stanley has a good article in The Guardian about this.
I was also amused by this article. In it, E. Michael Harrington from the SAE Institute (one of the best sound engineering schools) says the verdict is a bad one. For the other side of the argument the journalist turned to… the Gaye estate’s lawyer!
Update: Apparently the Gaye estate had some musicologists in who testified that the ‘sheet music aspects’ were very similar. Looks like Thicke and Williams made a big mistake in not getting their own musicologists in to testify that this was BS.