One of this summer's most popular songs is now the source of some controversy after the family of Marvin Gaye expressed concerns that "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke too closely resembled Gaye's 1977 hit "Got to Give It Up."
Intellectual property in a field like music can be difficult to protect, since many works are naturally derivative of previous works, but not necessarily a duplication or attempt to profit directly from another's idea. In all artistic endeavors, it is acceptable to be inspired by other work and potentially borrow from it within the bounds of "fair use" but a direct copy without permission is unacceptable. There are many notable cases where musicians have heard a new song that hits a little too close to home and have felt the need to pursue legal action to protect their original work. In this case, it was actually Thicke who commenced a legal action, asking a judge for a declaratory judgment that his song does not infringe on Gaye's copyright.
An interview about the song earlier this year indicated that Thicke was inspired by Gaye's work, mentioning the unique beat at a source of inspiration for his song.
Interestingly, Thicke offered the Gaye family a settlement in the case, although he was the one who commenced the action. News reports indicate that the offer was turned down, suggesting that the Gaye family and their legal counsel are confident that the new song does infringe on the previous work.
Thicke is also facing copyright infringement allegations for the same song from the company that owns the rights to George Clinton's "Sexy Ways".
Source: Billboard, "Marvin Gaye's Family Rejected Robin Thicke's Six-Figure Offer," Alex Pham, Aug. 23, 2013.