NEW YORK – “Let’s Get It On” Ed’s Version? We thought so but the New York jury thinks otherwise. One of Ed Sheeran’s probably earliest and biggest hits is under fire after copyright claims were filed by the heirs of the legendary artist Marvin Gaye.
In a closely watched copyright lawsuit, a jury found on Thursday that Ed Sheeran’s 2014 hit “Thinking Out Loud” did not violate Marvin Gaye’s timeless 1973 song “Let’s Get It On,” a decision that the British pop star claimed would help safeguard the creative process for songwriters in the U.S. and around the world.
The jury in Manhattan’s federal court found that Sheeran, his record label, and his music publisher had not violated the rights of the heirs of “Let’s Get It On” author Ed Townsend. After the ruling was read in court, Mr. Sheeran embraced his legal team.
After the verdict, Mr. Sheeran said, “It’s upsetting to be accused of copying someone else’s song when we’ve put so much work into our professions.”
Mr. Sheeran said, “I wish to commend the jury for reaching a decision that will help preserve the creative process for songwriters here in the United States and all around the world.
After a six-day trial and a jury discussion period of less than three hours, a conclusion was reached.
In 2017, Mr. Townsend’s heirs filed a lawsuit against Sheeran for copyright infringement, claiming that “Thinking Out Loud” had plagiarized the “heart” of Gaye’s song, which included its melody, harmony, and rhythm. Attorneys for Mr. Sheeran contended that any resemblances between the songs contain fundamental musical “building blocks” that cannot be protected by copyright.
The heirs stated in a court filing that they got 22% of Mr. Townsend’s writer share of Mr. Gaye’s song when the plaintiffs asked for a portion of the song’s profits from “Thinking Out Loud.”
“I’m just a guitar-playing person who enjoys creating music for listeners. After the decision, Mr. Sheeran stated, “I am not and will never permit myself to be a piggy bank for anyone to shake.
Mr. Sheeran refuted the copyright infringement charges in his testimony, telling the jury, “I find it really degrading to devote my whole life to being a performer and an artist and have someone devalue it.”
When his friend Amy Wadge came to hang out with him in England, Mr. Sheeran said, she started playing the chords for the song and they worked collectively on the lyrics. Mr. Sheeran played the chord progression to “Thinking Out Loud” while singing the song’s opening line.
Sheeran admitted to plagiarizing Mr. Gaye’s composition when he performed it in the show as a medley with “Thinking Out Loud,” claimed Ben Crump, one of the plaintiff’s counsels.
According to Mr. Sheeran, artists regularly mix songs, or “mash ups,” and on other occasions, he has done the same “Crazy Love” and “I Will Always Love You.” performed by Van Morisson and Dolly Parton respectively.
After the verdict was announced, jury member Sophia Neis, told reporters there had been “a lot of discussions” in the jury chamber.
A request for comment following the verdict did not immediately elicit a response from Mr. Townsend’s heirs’ attorneys.
Investment banker and author of “Bowie Bonds” David Pullman’s Structured Asset Sales LLC, which also has copyright rights in Mr. Gaye’s song, has two identical cases against Sheeran pending in New York City.
After the verdict, Mr. Pullman stated that the trial had taught him and his legal team new lessons.
We’ll be aware of what to expect, Mr. Pullman added.
One of Mr. Pullman’s cases in particular, he claimed, would be distinct from the others because it would concern the recording of “Let’s Get It On,” not simply the sheet music. Instead of the computerized version that was played during the now-completed trial, Mr. Pullman said that the jury in that instance will be allowed to hear Mr. Gaye’s original hit.
Mr. Sheeran, who’s not new to this situation, recently won a copyright lawsuit for his hit “Shape of You” which he also won. On the other hand, also in a familiar soil, Mr. Gaye’s heirs won an important case back in 2015 when Los Angeles jury favored their copyright claim against Rob Thicke and Pharell Williams’ song “Blurred Lines” as copyrighted from Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up”.
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