Ed Sheeran has been cleared of the allegation his ‘Thinking out Loud’ song ripped off Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get it On’.
The singer, 32, who strongly denied the accusation his hit stole fundamental musical elements from Gaye's song, had faced a $100 million lawsuit brought by the heirs of the song's co-writer, Ed Townsend, but heard a verdict he was in the clear on Thursday (04.05.23) after a jury comprised of three men and four women deliberated for less than three hours before reaching their decision.
Speaking outside the court, Ed – who is worth $200 million – said: “I’m just a guy with a guitar who loves writing music for people to enjoy. I am not and will not allow myself to be a piggy bank.”
Ed’s lawyer had said the case “should never have been brought”, and the singer staked his career on the outcome, saying during the case he would be “done” with music if found guilty.
The copyright lawsuit was first brought in 2018 by the estate of the late Ed Townsend, who co-wrote the 1973 R and B classic with Gaye.
It said Ed and his co-writer Amy Wadge “copied and exploited, without authorization or credit,” the composition of ‘Let’s Get It On’ by copying various elements, including its “melody, rhythms, harmonies, drums, bass line, backing chorus, tempo, syncopation and looping.”
Townsend’s daughter, Kathryn Griffin-Townsend, said about the lawsuit: “It is about today and standing up not only for my father’s work but all artists.
The copyright infringement trial started on 25 April at Manhattan Federal Court in New York and an attorney for Townsend’s heirs argued in his opening statement that a video of Ed performing a mashup of ‘Thinking out Loud’ and ‘Let’s Get it On’ at one of his concerts in Zurich in 2014, which they called the “smoking gun” for their case.
Lawyer Ben Crump said: “When someone provides you (with) a voluntary confession, believe them.
“Make no mistake about it: The evidence will show that Mr Ed Sheeran … made a confession.”
Ed responded on the stand the same day the video was played: “If I had done what you are accusing me of doing, I would be quite an idiot to stand on a stage in front of 20,000 people and do that.”
He also argued the chord progression in question – 1-3-4-5 – is common in pop songs, adding: “When you’re playing a song live and it fits in the same key, most pop songs revolve in the same three or four chords.”
In 2016, songwriters Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard filed a lawsuit in which they claimed the Ed’s ‘Photograph’ song was “verbatim, note-for-note copying” of their 2009 song ‘Amazing’ and the suit was settled out of court.
Ed was then accused of “blatantly copying” Jasmine Rae’s ‘When I Found You’ to create his ‘The Rest of Our Life’, which he co-wrote for Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, with that lawsuit also settled.