Ed Sheeran to stand trial in US over Let’s Get It On copyright complaint | Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran will stand trial in the US over claims he copied his hit 2014 song Thinking Out Loud from Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On, after a federal judge rejected the pop star’s efforts to toss out the long-running copyright case.
Sheeran’s lawyers had argued that the lawsuit was invalid because the elements that were similar in the two songs were not unique enough to be covered by copyright in the first place. They cited a number of other songs, including The Temptations’ Since I Lost My Baby, as examples of tracks with similar elements.
But the US district judge Louis Stanton said there was “no bright-line rule” for deciding such questions, and Sheeran would need to face a jury of his peers. The judge cited a disagreement between musical experts as a reason for his decision.
“Although the two musical compositions are not identical, a jury could find that the overlap between the songs’ combination of chord progression and harmonic rhythm is very close,” Stanton said.
The civil trial will take place in Manhattan – a date has yet to be set – and is expected to be high-profile. In April, Sheeran was cleared of copying in his chart-topping 2017 track Shape of You, in a separate case in London.
The claim over Thinking Out Loud was originally lodged in 2018 by a company called Structured Asset Sales (SAS), which acquired a portion of the estate of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote Let’s Get It On.
It sought $100m (£90m) in damages, alleging that Sheeran and his co-writer Amy Wadge “copied and exploited, without authorisation or credit,” the 1973 Gaye song, “including but not limited to the melody, rhythms, harmonies, drums, bass line, backing chorus, tempo, syncopation and looping”.
Stanton ruled that jurors must decide whether SAS can include concert revenue in damages, rejecting Sheeran’s argument that ticket sales were not tied to the alleged infringement. Sheeran’s 2014-15 tour brought in $150m in gross revenue, according to the music industry trade publication Pollstar.
This is not the only trial Sheeran is facing over Thinking Out Loud, which went to No 1 in the UK and spent 51 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 after it was released in 2014. SAS has filed a second case, which is on pause, while a separate suit by another portion of Townsend’s estate is awaiting trial.
An attorney for SAS, Hillel Parness, said the company was pleased with the ruling.
At the Shape of You trial in London in March, Sheeran and his co-writers John McDaid and Steven McCutcheon faced accusations that a hook on their track ripped off Oh Why, a 2015 song by Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue.
After a high court judge ruled in Sheeran’s favour, the singer said he hoped it would put an end to “future baseless claims”, which he said were “damaging to the songwriting industry”.