When I went nutso about copyright reform

The year was 2015. We had no idea what the next five years would bring. We had no idea of the absolute weirdness to come. The world was engrossed, for one moment in time, in a copyright fight between the writers of the 2013 song Blurred Lines and the family of Marvin Gaye, writer of the 1977 hit Got to Give It Up. The lawsuit said the newer song was a thinly veiled copy of the older one. I present both to you. Note the Blurred Lines video shows lyrics only, as the official video contains some non-family-friendly images.

Blurred Lines

Got to Give It Up

Read what I wrote back then

A court in 2015 ruled that Blurred Lines owes enough to prior work that the Gaye family were entitled to damages. I disagreed, in this essay. I didn’t disagree that they were similar, but I think that to some extent all music, indeed all literature is based on prior work. Perhaps, if you think about it, a bass line isn’t enough to declare that these two works were the same.Then again I wasn’t in the courtroom. I didn’t hear all the evidence. Maybe if I had, those lines would have seemed just a little less blurred to me. (ya see what I did there?)

I also argued that copyright laws protect the original author for far too long. Most works are protected for over 70 years after the death of the original author, and if the author is a corporation, copyrights can sometimes be extended indefinitely. You have to wonder if the author of a song who died in 1950 really needs to benefit from that song today.

Keep in mind, I’m not talking about works created in 1950. I’m talking about creators who died in 1950. I’m talking about someone like George Bernard Shaw, who wrote many of his most successful works between 1900 and 1915. Had current law applied to him at the time of his death, his descendants would have been able to get royalties until the end of last year.

Is this really the most important thing to worry about right now?

No, it is probably not. But it’s Throwback Thursday, and sometimes it’s nice to take a look back at a simpler time when it seemed like the only thing we had to worry about was whether or not two R&B songs were close enough to each other that one sounded like the other. The world has changed a lot since then, and it’s nice to take a moment to remember 2015, isn’t it?


About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.