After a court win in April, Ed Sheeran expressed his hope that it would put a stop to “future baseless claims.” Image credit: Hannah McKay/PA
Copyright complaint for Get It On
Singer accused of ripping off the iconic Marvin Gaye song Thinking Out Loud for his 2014 smash tune
After a federal court denied the pop star’s attempts to have the long-running copyright lawsuit dismissed, Ed Sheeran will go on trial in the US on allegations that he plagiarized Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On for his 2014 hit song Thinking Out Loud.
Sheeran’s attorneys had contended that the case was illegal because the similarities between the two songs’ parts were not sufficiently distinctive to warrant copyright protection in the first place. They provided samples of other songs with comparable characteristics, such as The Temptations’ Since I Lost My Baby.
However, US District Judge Louis Stanton said that Sheeran would have to testify before a jury of his peers since there was “no bright-line rule” for resolving such issues. The judge’s conclusion was supported by a debate amongst musical specialists.
“Although the two musical compositions are not identical, a jury could find that the overlap between the songs’ combination of chord progression and harmonic rhythm is very close,” Stanton said.
A date for the civil trial, which will be held in Manhattan, has not yet been determined, but it is anticipated to be one of prominence. Sheeran was exonerated of plagiarism in a separate lawsuit in London in April involving his chart-topping 2017 song Shape of You.
A business by the name of Structured Asset Sales (SAS), which purchased a share of the estate of Let’s Get It On co-author Ed Townsend, first filed the claim for Thinking Out Loud in 2018.
It claimed Sheeran and his writing partner Amy Wadge “copied and exploited, without authorization or credit,” the 1973 Gaye song, “including but not limited to the melody, rhythms, harmonies, drums, bass line, backing chorus, tempo, syncopation, and looping.” The lawsuit sought $100 million (£90 million) in damages.
Sheeran’s contention that ticket sales were unrelated to the alleged infringement was rejected by Stanton, who mandated that jurors consider whether SAS may include concert earnings in damages. According to Pollstar, a trade newspaper for the music business, Sheeran’s tour from 2014 to 2015 generated $150 million in gross earnings.
Thinking Out Loud, Sheeran’s 2014 single that reached No. 1 in the UK and lasted 51 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, is now the subject of more legal proceedings. While a different lawsuit brought by a different section of Townsend’s estate is going to trial, SAS has filed a second complaint that is now on hold.
According to Hillel Parness, a lawyer representing SAS, the business was happy with the decision.
Sheeran and his co-writers John McDaid and Steven McCutcheon were accused of plagiarizing the hook of their song Oh Why, a 2015 song by Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue, during the Shape of You trial in London in March.
The singer expressed his hope that the high court judge’s decision would put a stop to “future baseless claims,” which he said were “damaging to the songwriting industry,” after the judge decided in Sheeran’s favor.
Thanks to Nadia Khomami at The Guardian whose reporting provided the original basis for this story.