A jury in Manhattan federal court has ruled that Ed Sheeran's 2014 hit song “Thinking Out Loud” did not unlawfully copy Marvin Gaye's classic 1973 song “Let's Get It On,” a verdict that the British pop star sees as a victory for songwriters worldwide.
After six days of trial and less than three hours of deliberations, the jury concluded that the heirs of Ed Townsend, the songwriter of “Let's Get It On,” failed to prove that Sheeran, along with his label Warner Music Group and music publisher Sony Music Publishing, infringed on their copyright.
Expressing his relief, Sheeran hugged his attorneys in the courtroom and later stated, “It's devastating to be accused of stealing someone else's song when we've put so much work into our livelihoods.”
Grateful for the decision, Sheeran thanked the jury and remarked, “I want to thank the jury for making the decision that will help protect the creative process for songwriters here in the United States and all around the world.”
The lawsuit was filed by Townsend's heirs in 2017, alleging that “Thinking Out Loud” copied significant elements of “Let's Get It On,” including its melody, harmony, and rhythm. Sheeran's legal team argued that the similarities between the songs were generic musical components that could not be copyrighted.
The plaintiffs sought a share of the profits from “Thinking Out Loud,” claiming they had previously received 22% of the writer's share of Ed Townsend's song.
In his testimony, Sheeran denied the allegations and asserted, “I find it really insulting to devote my whole life to being a performer and a songwriter and have someone diminish it.” He played the chord progression and sang the opening lyrics of “Thinking Out Loud” to demonstrate his creative process.
Lawyer Ben Crump, representing the heirs, pointed out that Sheeran had performed a medley of “Thinking Out Loud” and “Let's Get It On” in concert, suggesting it as an admission of copying. Sheeran explained that it was common for artists to combine songs during live performances.
Juror Sophia Neis shared that there was extensive deliberation among the jurors before reaching the decision.
Two additional lawsuits against Sheeran are pending in Manhattan, filed by David Pullman's Structured Asset Sales LLC, which holds copyright interests in the Gaye song. Pullman noted that they would learn from this trial and expect different circumstances in their pending cases.
Sheeran had previously won a trial in London regarding copyright claims over his hit song “Shape of You.” In 2015, Gaye's heirs secured a significant verdict in Los Angeles when a jury agreed that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams' “Blurred Lines” infringed on Gaye's “Got to Give It Up.”
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