Yesterday (May 4), only a day before his new album - ("Subtract") was set to release, a federal jury ruled in Ed Sheeran’s favor in the highly contentious trial to determine whether his song “Thinking Out Loud” infringes the copyright of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”
Though Sheeran and co-writer Amy Wadge wrote a similar chord progression for “Thinking Out Loud,” the defense successfully argued those chords belonged to the songwriter’s toolkit before Gaye and co-writer Ed Townsend used them in the 1973 hit. (Townsend's estate made the claims against Sheeran.) Despite the course of the trial happening for eight years, the jury deliberated for only three hours, The New York Times reports.
After the verdict was announced, Sheeran said, “I am, obviously, very happy with the outcome of this case, and it looks like I’m not having to retire from my day job, after all. But, at the same time, I am unbelievably frustrated that baseless claims like this are allowed to go to court at all.” Sheeran threatened to retire from music if the outcome of the case did not go in his favor. Additionally, he had to miss his grandmother's funeral in Ireland in order to appear in court.
The music industry at large has closely followed the case, expecting ramifications for musicians’ creative freedom. During the trial, Sheeran argued that, though elements of the two songs sound alike, that alone does not constitute copyright infringement. He cited the Beatles’ “Let It Be” and Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry” as two distinct songs that, by the plaintiffs’ logic, would be deemed too similar. Thus, that punitive copyright ruling would ultimately deprive the world of future classics. “Creativity would be stifled for fear of being sued,” Sheeran’s lawyer, Ilene S. Farkas, said.
Ed Townsend’s family sued Ed Sheeran in 2016, not long after Marvin Gaye’s family won its landmark copyright infringement case regarding “Got to Give It Up” and “Blurred Lines.” Ed Sheeran has been sued multiple times for copyright infringement. In 2016, two songwriters, Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard, accused Sheeran of copying parts of one of their songs for “Photograph.” He settled the lawsuit the following year and credited Harrington and Leonard as “Photograph” co-writers.
Last year, Sheeran also prevailed in a plagiarism trial involving “Shape of You.” The singer-songwriter had been accused of lifting the smash hit’s hook from a little-known song by the British songwriter Sami Chokri. After winning in court, Sheeran said on social media “coincidences are bound to happen if 60,000 songs are released every day on Spotify.”
Now that the trial is over, the future is looking bright for Sheeran. Besides the release of - and its visual album component, his docuseries The Sum of It All has also been released on Disney+. He'll be embarking on a stadium tour soon and will be supported by Khalid, Russ, Dylan, Cat Burns, Maisie Peters, and Rosa Linn.
Watch Ed Sheeran's full post-trial statement below.
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