As Andrew Eborn predicted, Ed Sheeran wins ‘Thinking Out Loud’ plagiarism case

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Ed Sheeran wins ‘Thinking Out Loud’ plagiarism case

A US Court has ruled that Ed Sheeran did not copy Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On when composing Thinking Out Loud.

The 95 year old Judge Louis L Stanton sent the jury into deliberations, saying: “Independent creation is a complete defence, no matter how similar that song is.” The jury reached its decision after three hours.

Case involved Ed Sheeran’s alleged copying of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”.

In 2017, Ed Sheeran was sued by the heirs of Ed Townsend, Gaye’s co-writer of the 1973 soul classic. Kathryn Townsend Griffin, his daughter, led the lawsuit.

They claimed that Sheeran’s 2014 hit “Thinking Out Loud” has “striking similarities” to “Let’s Get It On” and “overt common elements” that violate the song’s copyright.

Sheeran’s attorneys claimed the songs’ undeniable structural symmetry points only to the foundations of popular music.

“The two songs share versions of a similar and unprotectable chord progression that was freely available to all songwriters,” they said in a court filing.

Ed Sheeran himself has previously appeared to acknowledge similarities between the songs, segueing between the tracks during a concert in Zurich in 2014.

Jurors were urged to keep their composure while watching a video of the British star performing a medley of his hit song ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and Marvin Gaye’s soul classic ‘Let’s Get it On’.

‘We don’t allow dancing,’ presiding US District Judge Louis Stanton told the seven-person jury at the Manhattan Federal Court on Tuesday.

Townsend’s family’s lawyers argue that artists including Boyz II Men have performed seamless mashups of the two songs on stage, with Sheeran himself even segueing into “Let’s Get It On” during live performances of “Thinking Out Loud.”

Gaye’s estate was not involved in the lawsuit, which named Sheeran’s label Atlantic Records and Sony/ATV Music Publishing also as defendants.

Sheeran’s co-writer on the song, Amy Wadge, has not been named in the case.

The lawsuit was heard in the Manhattan federal courtroom overseen by 95 year old Judge Louis L Stanton.

The jury in the case were asked to only take in the raw elements of melody, harmony and rhythm – rather than the lyrics – when considering the legal similarities between the two songs.

Heirs of Gaye’s co-writer argued that Sheeran, Warner Music Group and Sony Music Publishing owed them money for copyright infringement.

Ed Sheeran said he would give up his music career if found guilty at the trial in New York.

“If that happens, I’m done, I’m stopping.”

Ed Sheeran stood up and hugged his team after jurors ruled that he “independently” created his song.

Speaking outside court, Ed Sheeran said he was “obviously very happy” with the ruling.

“It looks like I’m not going to have to retire from my day job after all …but at the same time I am absolutely frustrated that baseless claims like this are allowed to go to court at all.

“If the jury had decided this matter the other way we might as well say goodbye to the creative freedom of songwriters.”

“I am not and will never allow myself to be a piggy bank for anyone to shake.”

A musicologist for Ed Sheeran’s defence told the court that the four-chord sequence in question was used in several songs before Marvin Gaye’s hit came out in 1973.

During the civil trial Sheeran sang and played parts of Thinking Out Loud on the guitar.

He said he wrote the song at home in England with his friend Amy Wadge, and had been inspired by his grandparents and a new romantic relationship he had just begun.

Ilene Farkas, Ed Sheeran’s lawyer, told the jurors that similarities in the chord progressions and rhythms of the two songs were “the letters of the alphabet of music.”

“These are basic musical building blocks that songwriters now and forever must be free to use, or all of us who love music will be poorer for it”.

Keisha Rice, on behalf of the heirs of Ed Townsend, said her clients were not claiming to own basic musical elements but rather “the way in which these common elements were uniquely combined.”

“Mr Sheeran is counting on you to be very, very overwhelmed by his commercial success,” she said, urging jurors to use their “common sense” to decide whether the songs are similar.

Last year Sheeran won a copyright battle at the High Court in London over his 2017 Shape of You.

Sheeran is also facing claims over Thinking Out Loud from a company owned by investment banker David Pullman that holds copyright interests in the Gaye song.

In 2018 Gaye’s estate received about $5m (about £3.9m) when a judge ruled that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ song Blurred Lines copied Gaye’s Got To Give It Up, making it among the most significant copyright cases in recent decades.

Ed Sheeran has been the target for several copyright lawsuits involving his work…

In 2017, Sheeran settled a £16m copyright infringement lawsuit over his song Photograph after musicians Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard claimed his song was similar to a track they wrote in 2009.

Last year, Sheeran won his High Court copyright trial against two songwriters who claimed he ripped off part of one of their songs for his huge 2017 hit Shape Of You. He was accused of plagiarising his song “Shape of You” from Sami Chokri’s 2015 track “Oh Why”.

In a statement following the judge’s verdict, Sheeran’s lawyers Simon Goodbody and Andrew Forbes said: “The judgment is an emphatic vindication of the creative genius of Ed, Johnny and Steve – as they have always maintained, they created ‘Shape Of You’ together, without copying from anyone else.”

At the time, Sheeran said such copyright claims were “way too common” and “made with the idea that a settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court, even if there is no basis for the claim”. He said such cases were “really damaging to the songwriting industry”.

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