Yesterday, my good friend, fellow music-lover and ridiculously super-smart guy, Steven Thomas (Asst Professor of English and Director of Film and Media Minor, Wagner College), published on his blog a response to and critique of my post from a couple of days ago on the Thicke/Pharrell/Gaye lawsuit ("On Blurred Lines, Pop Music, Pirates/Thieves and Memphis' Mustang Sally"). His is a really great piece and has given me a lot to think about, so please do stop now and read Thomas' essay here: "Blurred Lines and Musical Conditioning." In sum, Thomas argues that I downplayed Thicke and Pharrell's real (and really serious) offense by employing a number of disanalogies in the course of making my case. According to Thomas, my hand-waving and mere tut-tutting at Thicke and Pharrell's appropriation of Gaye's artistic production isn't justified by claiming "all pop music is appropriative!" (as I, admittedly, did) nor is Thicke's and Pharrell's appropriation comparable to the generic examples of "riffing" that I provided as evidence for my claim. On Thomas' account, I failed to appreciate the critical difference between homage and imitation, by which I think he means the critical difference between appropriation and expropriation. He doesn't say this explicitly, but his essay suggests that the manner in which I figured the constitutive and constituting "conditions" of pop music production were fabricated in such a way that, in effect, conflate (qualifiedly objectionable) appropriation with (always objectionable) expropriation
To wit, Thomas worries that I failed to appreciate that copyright infringement of the Thicke/Pharrell sort is just as serious as piracy, which I did acknowledge as a serious problem for the music industry.