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Discussion: Is It Homage or Theft?

Blurred Lines

Today’s discussion topic comes from Albert Nothlit:

How about homage vs, um, ‘unauthorized borrowing’? We all draw inspiration from somewhere, but where do you draw the line?

There was a big summer musical hit in 2013 called blurred lines, by Pharrell and Robin Thicke. It was a bubbly happy, feel-good song that made millions. Beneath the happy exterior, there were some controversial, misogynistic undercurrents, but the controversy I’m thinking about had nothing to do with that part of the song or video.

It’s this – last year, a jury gave the estate of Marvin Gaye a huge award for alleged similarities between the song and “Gotta Give It Up”.

Now my husband Mark is a huge Marvin Gaye fan, and he doesn’t hear the similarities. Others do. But it brings up an interesting point… where, exactly, is the line between similarity, homage, and theft?

So my questions for you today – Are there any truly new ideas in fiction? Is it okay to pay homage to something that already exists? How do we know if something crosses the line? And how do we respond when we suspect outright theft?

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