Ed Sheeran Wins Copyright Battle Over “Thinking Out Loud” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On

Ed Sheeran has won a major legal copyright battle over his hit song, “Thinking Out Loud,” after a Manhattan jury ruled that the song did not plagiarize Marvin Gaye's 1973 hit, “Let's Get It On.”[0] The lawsuit was filed in 2017 by the estate of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote “Let's Get It On” with Gaye.[1] The lawsuit alleged that “Thinking Out Loud” had “striking similarities” and “overt common elements” to “Let's Get It On” that violate copyright. Together with Amy Wage, Sheeran co-penned the Grammy-winning song, which was subject to infringement claims that Wage found “devastating” and “frightening” since they were baseless.[2]

Following the announcement of the verdict, the musician embraced his legal team and co-writer, Wadge. He then proceeded towards Kathryn Townsend Griffin, the plaintiff, and engaged in a friendly conversation. The duo exchanged smiles and hugs thereafter.[3] Upon leaving the courtroom, Sheeran greeted his wife Cherry Seaborn, who had come to witness the proceedings, with a warm embrace and a kiss.[3]

The family of Ed Townsend, the late co-writer of “Let's Get It On,” accused Sheeran of plagiarizing the sheet music.[4] In court last week, Sheeran showcased a medley of his own tracks and Marvin Gaye's, aiming to illustrate the prevalence of the four-chord sequence in his chart-toppers and those of his peers.[5]

Both men have been involved in previous copyright trials centered around their music.[6] Last year, Sheeran emerged victorious in a lawsuit for copyright infringement over “Shape of You,” whereas Gaye's heirs, who are not a part of the current litigation, won a case in 2015 against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams for their song “Got to Give it Up.”[0]

Sheeran declared in a statement that he read out loud outside the courthouse and issued to journalists after the verdict that for the past eight years, they have been discussing two songs with contrasting lyrics, tunes, and four chords that are diverse and commonly employed by composers worldwide.[7]

Sheeran explained to the press that the chords utilized in “Let's Get It On” have been a fundamental part of music creation for ages and will continue to be so even after our time.[8] The songwriter's alphabet is an essential part of our toolkit, and it should be available to everyone for use.[8] The way they are played, just like the color blue, belongs to no one in particular.[9]

0. “Ed Sheeran wins Thinking Out Loud copyright case” BBC, 4 May. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-65480293

1. “Ed Sheeran Frustrated Despite Winning Court Case” Newsweek, 4 May. 2023, https://www.newsweek.com/ed-sheeran-frustrated-despite-winning-court-case-1798488

2. “Ed Sheeran says he's ‘done' with music if he loses copyright lawsuit” Entertainment Weekly News, 2 May. 2023, https://ew.com/music/ed-sheeran-done-with-music-if-he-loses-copyright-lawsuit/

3. “Ed Sheeran Hugs Plaintiff After Winning Copyright Trial: What Kathryn Griffin Townsend Said to Him in Court” PEOPLE, 5 May. 2023, https://people.com/music/ed-sheeran-copyright-lawsuit-what-kathryn-townsend-griffin-said-in-court/

4. “Ed Sheeran found not liable in “Thinking Out Loud” trial” The A.V. Club, 4 May. 2023, https://www.avclub.com/ed-sheeran-thinking-out-loud-trial-verdict-1850404069

5. “Ed Sheeran speaks out on protecting songwriters” ABC News, 4 May. 2023, https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Culture/ed-sheeran-talks-impact-copyright-lawsuits-songwriters/story?id=99063162

6. “Ed Sheeran plays mash-up of Marvin Gaye songs during testimony at copyright trial” ABC News, 1 May. 2023, https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/ed-sheeran-plays-mash-marvin-gaye-songs-testimony/story?id=98989017

7. “Jury finds Ed Sheeran did not infringe on the copyright of ‘Let's Get It On'” CNN, 4 May. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/04/media/ed-sheeran-verdict/index.html

8. “Ed Sheeran Speaks Out After Winning ‘Thinking Out Loud’ Copyright Case: Read His Full Statement” Billboard, 4 May. 2023, https://www.billboard.com/music/pop/ed-sheeran-speaks-out-thinking-out-loud-case-1235322327/

9. “From Ed Sheeran’s court victory to Spotify deleting Boomy uploads… it’s MBW’s Weekly Round-Up” Music Business Worldwide, 5 May. 2023, https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/from-ed-sheerans-legal-victory-to-spotify-deleting-boomy-uploads-its-mbws-weekly-round-up

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