It’s official: Ed Sheeran will head to jury trial after a federal judge refused to end a copyright lawsuit from 2014.
The news comes after a US judge rejected and dismissed Sheeran’s call for charges to be dropped. In his decision released on Thursday December 3rd, 2019, District Judge Louis Stanton said a jury should decide.
The case involves a mash up the singer performed at a concert in 2014. Sheeran sang a few bars of Marvin Gaye’s hit “Let’s Get It On” during his performance of “Thinking Out Loud.”
You can see the mash up here:
The concert performance made headlines, prompting the estate of of “Let’s Get It On’s” writers to sue after recognizing some similarities between the two songs.
“Thinking Out Loud” reached number 1 in 2014. It was also was the first single to spend a full year in the top 40 charts, and won the British song writer several awards and accolades.
Heirs and the estate of the late Ed Townsand, co-writer of “Let’s Get It On,” brought the action suit against Sheeran, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, and Atlantic Records.
The judge noticed “substantial similarities” between musical elements of both songs. As a result, the video performance will be presented as evidence. Jurors will watch the video in order to make a final decision.
Last June, Structured Asset Sales, who owns part of the rights to Gaye’s song, launched their own lawsuit. Judge Stanton will also oversee this $100M trial. This case, however, does not involve Sheeran.
The judge also pointed out similarities between the two songs, especially their bass lines and percussion. Listeners might consider the songs’ “aesthetic appeal” to be similar. Additionally, he said there was “disagreement over whether the harmonic and rhythmic composition [of Gaye’s song] was too common to merit copyright protection.”
However Sheeran’s camp, and fans alike, don’t think there’s that much of a comparison.
This isn’t the first time Gaye’s estate has accused a modern artist of “ripping off” one of Gaye’s songs. In 2015, Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke surrendered millions to Gaye’s family after losing a case involving their song “Blurred Lines” and Gaye’s 1977 hit, “Got To Give It Up.”
Sheeran’s defense team has argued that ‘Thinking Out Loud’ is different because it has “somber, melancholic tones” and mentions lasting romantic love. In contrast, “Let’s Get It On” is characterized as a “sexual anthem.”
Do I think there’s any similarities between the two songs? Harmonically speaking, there are some common areas. However, I really don’t see that much of a similarity. Plus, how many other stars perform mini mash up’s during their concerts?
Sadly, this also isn’t the first time the writer/performer has been accused of copyright in his songs.
In 2017 Sheeran settled a $20m copyright infringement claim against him in the US, over his song ‘Photograph’ after songwriters Thomas Leonard and Martin Harrington sued him in 2016. They claimed the song had a “similar structure” to their song ‘Amazing.’
Also in 2017, critics and fans made comparisons between TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’ and ‘Shape of You’, causing the team behind the 1999 hit to seek writing credits on Sheeran’s smash single.
So maybe this doesn’t look to good for our favourite guy, Ed, since he does have a history with his writing credentials and musical intent.
This time around, Sheeran has denied the wrongdoing and tried proving his innocence by trying to get the judge to dismiss his case. He, or his record company, have yet to speak out on the judge’s decision.