On Tuesday, a California judge ruled that the duo stole from Marvin Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give It Up” in creating their ubiquitous 2013 hit, and must pay $7.3 million to the late singer’s estate.
Williams quickly spoke out against the verdict, making a statement through his rep that while he respects the judicial process, the ruling “sets a horrible precedent for music and creativity going forward.”
The Grammy-winning singer/songwriter/producer found plenty of support among his colleagues, who pointed out that the ruling makes the line between inspiration and infringement worryingly blurred.
“It’s tough because everybody is influenced by things,” Keith Urban told PEOPLE this week at American Idol finals kickoff. “They always say the art of originality is knowing how to hide your sources.”
“It’s tricky,” the Australian singer/songwriter continued. “My initial reaction from it, I was shocked, honestly. Seems more like a sound and a feel and a style and a genre and an era, none of which can be copyrighted.”
Singer Nick Lachey shared a similar reaction when he spoke to PEOPLE after the verdict.
“I was a little surprised by it, honestly,” he said. “You can hear the similarities, but to say that they ripped it off, it’s a strong statement.”
“If that stands, I think that really kind of changes the way musicians have to approach it now,” the former boy bander continued. “If you can be inspired by something and do something that’s similar and have a jury rule that you ripped it off, that’s kind of a scary thing.”
“We’ve all been inspired by someone who came before us,” Lachey added. “Now what the jury is saying is that you can be inspired, but you can’t be inspired too far. It’s a tough judgment.”
Songwriter Bonnie McKee, who has written hits for stars including Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, told the Los Angeles Times the verdict already seems to be having an impact on songwriting.
“It’s definitely changing the way people are doing things,” she said. “A lot of times, if you’re not getting inspiration right away, we’ll listen to stuff to get inspired. In all the rooms I’m working in now, people are much more self-conscious about that … It strikes fear into the hearts of songwriters.”