A jury has decided that Ed Sheeran did not unlawfully copy Marvin Gaye’s classic 1973 song “Let’s Get It On” in his 2014 hit “Thinking Out Loud.” The decision came after six days of trial and less than three hours of jury deliberations. The heirs of Ed Townsend, the songwriter for “Let’s Get It On,” sued Sheeran for copyright infringement in 2017, claiming that “Thinking Out Loud” copied the “heart” of Gaye’s song, including its melody, harmony, and rhythm. However, the jury found that they had not proven their case against Sheeran, his label Warner Music Group, and his music publisher, Sony Music Publishing. After the verdict, Sheeran thanked the jury for making a decision that would help protect the creative process for songwriters around the world.
Townsend’s heirs had asked for a share of the profits from “Thinking Out Loud.” Sheeran’s attorneys argued that any similarities between the songs involve basic musical “building blocks” that cannot be copied. Sheeran denied the copyright infringement claims, testifying that he found it “insulting” to devote his whole life to being a performer and a songwriter and have someone diminish it. He played the chord progression to “Thinking Out Loud” on the witness stand and sang the opening words: “When your legs don’t work like they used to.” Sheeran testified that his friend and collaborator Amy Wadge first started strumming the chords for the song during a visit to his home in England, and they collaborated on the lyrics.
There are two similar lawsuits still pending against Sheeran in Manhattan, brought by investment banker and “Bowie Bonds” creator David Pullman’s Structured Asset Sales LLC, which also owns copyright interests in the Gaye song. Sheeran won a trial in London last year in a separate copyright case over his hit “Shape of You.” Gaye’s heirs won an important verdict in 2015 when a jury in Los Angeles agreed with the claims that the Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams song “Blurred Lines” copied Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.”
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