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Heirs in Music Plagiarism Case Win Large Settlement

Not every heir receives the creative portfolio of someone such as Marvin Gaye, but many individuals across the country may inherit copyrighted material. In a recent case involving Marvin Gaye’s heirs, a court verdict illustrates the fact that strong estate planning can protect assets — including creative assets — long-term.

The case began when the heirs sued music artists Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke, among others, for allegedly plagiarizing lyrics created by Marvin Gaye. The plagiarized lyrics were reportedly used in the song “Blurred Lines,” which became a hit single.

After a court battle, the estate and heirs won a jury award. The award totaled $7.4 million and was broken down into $3.4 million for profits due and $4 million in damages. The jury did find that Williams and Thicke infringed on the estate’s copyright. Other defendants were included in the initial suit, but were cleared during the trial.

Following the trial, the estate’s spokesman said it would seek an injunction. The injunction, if successful, would stop the distribution of the single. The attorney for Thicke and Williams said that they were looking at options; the award was a lot of money, said the lawyer, but it wouldn’t bankrupt either of his clients. In a later statement, Williams denied that his song and Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” were similar in anything but genre.

While this case involves enormous awards and numerous celebrities, the bases of it illustrates how estates can protect creative products of those who have passed away. Creative assets might include bodies of literature, music, art, and anything else that can be copyrighted or trademarked. By developing a strong estate plan today, you can help your heirs protect these assets in the future.

Source: Reuters, “Marvin Gaye’s heirs win $7.4 million for ‘Blurred Lines’ plagiarism” Michael Fleeman, Mar. 10, 2015

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