“I was high and drunk.” Not always the best thing to admit in a deposition, but in the recently released deposition videos from the “Blurred Lines” trial, Robin Thicke did just that.  With the case heading towards appeal, the video footage was released Monday of both Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ depositions.  While transcripts of some of the video content had been available, the new footage gives greater insight into the artists’ testimony and how they could have impacted the outcome of the case.

When asked about interviews where he told reporters that Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” inspired “Blurred Lines,” Thicke said that he was high and drunk in every interview he gave that year and that he said whatever he had to to sell records, going on to say that he did not consider himself an honest person.  In another video, Thicke stated that he only started mentioning Gaye in interviews after people told him the songs sounded similar.  Pharrell Williams was also asked about the truth of Thicke’s interviews, specifically one where Thicke said he specifically told Williams when they were working on the song that he wanted to do something that sounded like “Got to Give It Up”.  Williams said the conversation never happened, and seemed to back up Thicke’s statement that it was about selling records, saying that artists often “embellish” co-written stories and want to make it seem like they came up with the “genesis” of a song.

Many felt the testimony reflected very poorly on Thicke, since he not only admitted to the drug and alcohol abuse but also to lying about his role in the creation of “Blurred Lines”.  However, Thicke had to say something to address the interviews where he openly admitted that he had “Got to Give It Up” in his mind when he created “Blurred Lines”.  In music copyright cases, it must be shown that the alleged infringer actually copied the work, and an inference of copying can be drawn if the alleged infringer had access coupled with similarities between the works.  Thicke’s interviews not only showed that he was aware of the song, but that he was intentionally creating something similar.  So while the statements may reflect badly on Thicke personally, and could have led the jury to view him negatively, theoretically the deposition could have actually helped his case by creating doubt that he or Pharrell actually had the song in mind when creating “Blurred Lines”.

The videos of Pharrell’s testimony were much longer, and more contentious.  They are full of tense moments where Williams expressed frustration with the questions, both in his responses and his body language.  The attorney cited an interview where Williams said that sheet music showed the difference in songs, and that he created a song with pentatonic harmonies and a bluegrass chord structure, with major bluegrass chords that were very different from Gaye’s minor blues chords.  His music knowledge became the focus of the questions, with the attorney presumably trying to show that he did not actually have the knowledge to make the distinctions he cited in the interview. The attorney asked Williams to define pentatonic harmonies, bluegrass and blues chord structures, and asked him to identify notes on sheet music.  Williams repeatedly stated that he was not there to teach him music, and that he should ask the musicologist in the room to explain it to him.  The attorney asked if he was not answering because he did not know, but Williams just continued to state that he was not answering because he was not comfortable.  His testimony likely had a negative affect on the jury, because his continued avoidance of the questions seemed to show he was either just being uncooperative or that he really did not understand the musical concepts.

The case is now moving to appeal over some of the legal conclusions made in the trial, particularly the jury instructions, the content of musicologists’ testimony, and the adequacy of the evidence. The deposition videos will not be an issue on appeal, which might be best from the perspective of Thicke and Williams.  It will be interesting to see how the appellate court will resolve this highly publicized case.

Erica Hicks

 

 

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