Pharrell Williams, big hat aficionado and author of impossibly catchy songs, worries that a verdict forcing him to pay millions of dollars for copyright infringement will be a “handicap” for creators, blurring the line between inspiration and rip-off.
A jury in Los Angeles ruled on March 11 that Williams, along with fellow composer Robin Thicke, must pay $7.3 million to the family of Marvin Gaye, for infringing the rights on Gaye’s 1977 “Got to Give It Up” in their 2013 hit single “Blurred Lines.” Though the songs are reminiscent, “Blurred Lines” does not copy any lyrics or specific melodies from Gaye—but it was meant to channel a similar vibe, Williams reportedly testified during the court proceedings.
Williams has now spoken out (paywall) for the first time since the ruling, in an interview with the Financial Times, in which he denied any infringement and argued there should be no copyright on feelings or emotions. Here’s what he told the FT about the chilling effect he, and others, expect from the verdict:
“This applies to fashion, music, design . . . anything. If we lose our freedom to be inspired we’re going to look up one day and the entertainment industry as we know it will be frozen in litigation. This is about protecting the intellectual rights of people who have ideas.”