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A federal jury found Thursday that Ed Sheeran did not rip off Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” with his hit “Thinking Out Loud.”
The jurors, comprised of three men and four women, deliberated for less than three hours before reaching their decision.
Since this is a bifurcated trial, meaning it is divided into the “guilt” phase and “penalty” phase, the case is over now that Sheeran has not been found liable.
The copyright lawsuit was first brought about in 2018 by the estate of the late Ed Townsend, who co-wrote the 1973 R&B classic with Gaye.
The plaintiffs claimed in the initial complaint that Sheeran, 32, 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 the “melody, rhythms, harmonies, drums, bass line, backing chorus, tempo, syncopation and looping.”
Townsend’s daughter, Kathryn Griffin-Townsend, said of the lawsuit, “It is about today and standing up not only for my father’s work but all artists,” according to CBS.
The copyright infringement trial kicked off on April 25 in Manhattan federal court.
An attorney for Townsend’s heirs argued in his opening statement that a video of Sheeran performing a mashup of “Thinking Out Loud” and “Let’s Get It On” at one of his concerts in Zurich in 2014 was the “smoking gun” for their case.
“When someone provides you [with] a voluntary confession, believe them,” lawyer Ben Crump said. “Make no mistake about it: The evidence will show that Mr. Ed Sheeran … made a confession.”
Sheeran then took the stand that same day and rebuffed the claim that he seemingly admitted to stealing Gaye’s iconic track at one of his shows.
“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,” the British singer-songwriter testified.
Sheeran also argued that the chord progression in question, 1-3-4-5, is common in pop songs.
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“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,” the “Shape of You” singer said.
This is not the first time Sheeran has been sued for allegedly copying another artist’s work.
In 2016, songwriters Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard filed a lawsuit in which they claimed the Grammy-winning singer’s ballad “Photograph” was “verbatim, note-for-note copying” of their 2009 song “Amazing.” The suit was settled out of court.
Sheeran was then accused of “blatantly copying” Jasmine Rae’s song “When I Found You” to create “The Rest of Our Life,” which he co-wrote for Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. Per Reuters, that lawsuit was also settled.
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