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Ed Sheeran Wins Marvin Gaye's "Let’s Get It On" Copyright Case


Fri 05 May 2023 | 09:36 AM
Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran
Yara Sameh

English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran did not copy the classic Marvin Gaye song “Let’s Get It On” when composing his smash hit “Thinking Out Loud”, a US court ruled on Thursday.

The British singer-songwriter had denied stealing elements of the song for his 2014 worldwide hit. 

Heirs of songwriter Ed Townsend sued Sheeran, his label Warner Music Group and music publisher Sony Music Publishing for allegedly ripping off Gaye's classic, which Townsend co-wrote.

Gaye collaborated with Townsend on "Let's Get It On", which topped the Billboard charts in 1973. Sheeran's “Thinking Out Loud” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2015.

Townsend's heirs sued Sheeran for copyright infringement in 2017, claiming "Thinking Out Loud" copied the "heart" of Gaye's song including its melody, harmony, and rhythm.

Sheeran announced his decision to quit music for good if he loses the trial in New York.

"If that happens, I'm done, I'm stopping," he said when asked the toll that the court proceedings had taken on him.

Sheeran added, “I find it really insulting to devote my whole life to being a performer and a songwriter and have someone diminish it,”.

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

Speaking outside court, the singer-songwriter said he was 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," he added.

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

During the civil trial, the pop star sang and played parts of Thinking Out Loud on the guitar.

Sheeran 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.

The pop star's lawyer, Ilene Farkas, 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," she said.

During the trial, Keisha Rice, who represented Townsend's heirs, said her clients were not claiming to own basic musical elements but rather how 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 lawsuit at the High Court in London over his 2017 hit "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.