Ed Sheeran Must Stand Trial Over 'Thinking Out Loud'
A judge ruled Thursday that Ed Sheeran must stand trial on allegations that his hit “Thinking Out Loud” copied parts of Marvin Gaye’s classic “Let’s Get It On.”
Sheeran’s lawyers sought to have the lawsuit tossed out by arguing that the simple elements he allegedly stole – a chord progression and the harmonic rhythm – are not unique enough to be covered by copyright.
U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton disagreed. “There is no bright-line rule that the combination of two unprotectable elements is insufficiently numerous to constitute an original work,” he wrote. “A work may be copyrightable even though it is entirely a compilation of unprotectable elements.”
Judge Stanton said the two sides will have to make their cases to a jury. A trial date has not been set.
Structured Asset Sales, which owns one-third of the rights to Gaye’s 1973 song, sued Sheeran in 2018.
“The Defendants copied the ‘heart’ of Let’s and repeated it continually throughout Thinking. . . . The melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic compositions of Thinking are substantially and/or strikingly similar to the drum composition of Let’s.”
It noted that in a 2014 concert in Zurich, Sheeran performed a mash-up of the two songs, which only highlighted their similarities.
In April, Sheeran beat a 2019 plagiarism lawsuit filed over his song “Shape Of You.” After an 11-day trial in London, a judge ruled that even though there were “similarities” between the song and one by Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue, Sheeran and co-writers Johnny McDaid and Steve McCutcheon “neither deliberately nor subconsciously” copied the melody.
After the verdict, Sheeran complained that claims of copyright infringement “are way too common now” and are “really damaging to the songwriting industry.”
He added: “There are only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music. Coincidence is bound to happen. This really does have to end.”
(In June, Sheeran, McDaid and McCutcheon were awarded nearly $1.5 million in legal costs.)
In 2018, Sheeran settled a copyright infringement lawsuit from songwriters who alleged that his 2014 hit “Photograph” was a “note-for-note copying” of their 2009 song “Amazing.”
That same year, two songwriters filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Sheeran that claimed the melody of “The Rest Of Our Life” – which Sheeran wrote for country stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill – is ripped from their song “When I Found You.” The case was later settled.
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