Litigation is expensive, but copyright infringement litigation is even more expensive and comes with the risk of an award of attorney fees and costs to the prevailing party. But this has not stopped many copyright holders from pursuing infringement claims against mainstream music artists whose popular songs “sound like,” or have similar elements to, previously copyrighted compositions. While some artists like Drake and Ed Sheeran have defeated infringement lawsuits based on “fair use” and findings of non-similarity, other gangbuster jury verdicts have empowered copyright owners to take a shot in pursuing infringement claims. For instance, the family of Marvin Gate won a $5.3 million verdict against Pharrell and Robin Thicke for infringing on Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up” in the making of the hit “Blurred Lines.”
Despite some juries finding infringement based upon substantial similarity of competing works, district and appellate courts have reined in and reversed such verdicts, finding the operative elements of the original works not protectable by copyright.