Ed Sheeran says he didn’t steal ‘Let’s Get It On’ in music copyright trial

Ed Sheeran says he didn’t steal ‘Let’s Get It On’ in music copyright trial
Musician Ed Sheeran arrives at federal court in New York on Tuesday. Photographer: Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Ed Sheeran, on trial for allegedly copying from Marvin Gaye’s hit “Let’s Get It On” was called a “British upstart” who profited unfairly from the work of the Motown legend’s co-author.

Sheeran, dressed in a dark blue suit and flanked by lawyers, listened silently as Ben Crump, a lawyer for Gaye’s co-author, Ed Townsend, accused the pop star of lifting the melody, chord progression, harmonies and rhythm of his 2014 hit “Thinking Out Loud” from the older song.

“This case is simply about giving credit where credit is due,” Crump told jurors in his opening statement in the copyright trial that kicked off Tuesday in Manhattan federal court.

The trial is being closely watched by the music industry, which has seen judges and juries wrestle in recent years with how to draw the line between musical building blocks available to all and the complex combination of elements that go into a copyright-able song.

Heirs of Townsend, who died in 2003, are seeking unspecified damages from Sheeran, Atlantic Records, and Sony/ATV Music Publishing.

Sheeran claims “Thinking Out Loud” sprung from a discussion between him and his writing partner, Amy Wadge, about elderly relatives who lost spouses after decades together. Sheeran and Wadge, who’s not named in the suit, are both expected to testify in the trial.

“‘Thinking Out Loud’ is about finding everlasting, unconditional love,” Ilene Farkas, a lawyer for Sheeran, told the jury in her opening statement. The lyrics and melodies of the songs are “very different,” she said. And while both songs use a similar chord progression, so do many other popular songs, including some by Buddy Holly, the Beatles and the Beach Boys, Farkas said.

The song is a work of “independent creation,” not copying, she said. “Ed Sheeran and Amy Wadge have been wrongly accused here.”

But Crump told jurors that Sheeran’s live performance of a “mashup” of the two songs shows how similar they are. He called the mashup the “smoking gun” proving Sheeran ripped off “Let’s Get It On.”

Farkas countered that Sheeran has previously performed mashups of “Thinking Out Loud” with other songs.

The case is Griffin v. Sheeran, 17-cv-05221, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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©2023 Bloomberg L.P.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dee Bee says:

    Not the first time Sheeran has been accused of copying someone else’s song. He got away with it last time, despite his version being so blatantly a rip-off of the original, you can only assume the judge listened to it with earplugs in!

  • colstoncam says:

    It’s a very similar chord progression, with the same push on the second chord, very similar bass line and groove. However, it’s quite a common progression and groove often used in the blues and soul music, so in my opinion it’s not a blatant rip off, just the use once again of a common chord progression.
    All decent musicians/composers are thieves of ideas anyway has been like that from way back and includes all the classic and modern composers. That’s how music progresses.

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