In a high-profile copyright dispute, a federal jury ruled Thursday that pop star Ed Sheeran did not infringe Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” copyright with his 2014 hit “Thinking Out Loud.” The lawsuit was brought against Sheeran by Gaye’s estate in recent years, which has become one of the most significant legal battles in the music industry.
Ed Sheeran testified in court that he wrote “Thinking Out Loud” independently with his friend and long-time collaborator Amy Wadge. He played the guitar frequently during his two-week testimony in a downtown Manhattan courtroom. According to Sheeran, the song was inspired by the long-lasting love he and Wadge observed among older family members.
The lawsuit focused on the syncopated chord pattern similarity between “Thinking Out Loud” and “Let’s Get It On,” which Gaye co-wrote with Ed Townsend. Townsend’s family, who represented Gaye’s estate in the lawsuit, claimed that the chord progression was the “heart” of “Let’s Get It On.” However, Sheeran and his legal team argued that the chord progression was an ordinary musical building block in many other songs.
The jury deliberated for around three hours before deciding that Sheeran wrote the song without assistance from Gaye’s classic tune. In a statement he read outside the courthouse, Sheeran expressed his contentment with the decision. However, he also expressed his frustration with the baseless claims that had been made against him.
“I am just a guy with a guitar who loves writing music for others to enjoy,” he said. “I have no special talent. I am not and will never allow myself to be a piggy bank for anyone to shake.”
The ruling comes amid a succession of cases that have tested the originality of pop music and blurred the line between inspiration and copying. The 2015 case against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, which found that their song “Blurred Lines” violated Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up,” caused a significant shockwave across the music industry.
In the case against Sheeran, the plaintiffs argued that their “selection and arrangement” of “Let’s Get It On” was unique enough to justify protection, despite individual parts, such as chords, not being copyrightable on their own. Sheeran’s legal team responded by asserting that the plaintiff’s case did not meet the rigorous legal criteria necessary for such protection.
Sheeran has been involved in two previous legal proceedings over allegations of copying, which may have contributed to his agitation and aggression when cross-examined during the trial.
the ruling in the lawsuit against Ed Sheeran for his song “Thinking Out Loud” is significant for the music industry. It highlights the importance of rigorous legal criteria for protecting copyright and distinguishing between inspiration and copying. Despite the similarities between the two songs, the court ultimately ruled that Sheeran wrote his song independently.