When British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran entered the Manhattan Federal Court
with an acoustic guitar for his copyright infringement case trial and then sang
his Grammy-winning song. "Thinking Out Loud
" in front of the courtroom's
crowded audience, it was an unusual sight.
The British musician was in New York for a trial related to a copyright
infringement claim brought by the family of Ed Townsend, the late co-writer of
Marvin Gaye's soul anthem "Let's Get it On," against him for his song "Thinking
Out Loud." When Sheeran came to appear as the first witness for the defence
during the trial, he played the chord sequence of "Thinking Out Loud" in front
of the jurors.
The pop artist is accused of stealing the beat of the late superstar Marvin
Gaye's 1973 soul song "Let's Get it On" in the ongoing copyright infringement
lawsuit against him. Kathryn Townsend Gryphon, whose late father, Ed Townsend,
co-wrote the song "Let's Get it On," filed the complaint. It claims that Sheeran
copied Gaye's song's fundamental musical
The plaintiffs also called musicologist Alexander Stewart as an expert witness,
who claimed that one of Sheeran's four chords in the opening of "Thinking Out
Loud" was a minor chord that also appears in the same position of the chord
progression throughout "Let's Get It On."
- The question in this case is whether Ed Sheeran's 2014 song "Thinking
Out Loud" violated the copyright of Ed Townsend, the late co-writer of
Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it On" soul hit.
- The plaintiffs contend that Sheeran plagiarised Gaye's song's basic
musical structure, even if not its exact lyrics or mood.
Copyright is a sort of intellectual property that safeguards original works of
authorship as soon as they assume a tangible form of expression, including
images, musical compositions, sound recordings, computer programmes, novels,
poetry, movies, architectural works, and more. When someone makes use of or
duplicates an original work without the owner's consent, this is known as
copyright infringement. According to the U.S. Copyright Act, the plaintiff must
show that the defendant had access to the original work and that the two works
are substantially similar in order to establish copyright infringement.
The plaintiffs in this lawsuit contend that Sheeran's song "Thinking Out Loud"
violated the copyright of Gaye's song "Let's Get it On" since the former
purportedly stole the latter's basic musical composition. Alexander Stewart, a
musicologist who was called as an expert witness by the plaintiffs, stated that
one of Sheeran's four chords in the start of "Thinking Out Loud" was a minor
chord that also appears in the same place of the chord progression throughout
the rest of "Let's Get It On." The plaintiffs also presented a clip from one of
Sheeran's live performances in which he could be seen switching back and forth
between his song and Gaye's in a medley-like fashion.
Sheeran, however, countered that most pop songs can "fit over most pop songs"
and that he frequently performs such medleys, which he claimed were made
feasible "by the limited harmonic palette of mainstream pop music."
He used his guitar to show how the major chord he played in his song differed
from the minor one suggested by the plaintiff's musicologist. Sheeran's lawyers
said that the song's symmetrical structure alludes to the roots of popular music
and that the two songs contain variations of a chord sequence that is comparable
and unprotectable and was publicly accessible to all songwriters. The defence
included a guitar textbook as supporting documentation to demonstrate that any
musician may create a tune using a common sequence.
After considering the evidence presented by both sides, the court ruled in favor
of Sheeran, finding that the similarities between the two songs were not
substantial enough to constitute copyright infringement. The court found that
the similarities between the two songs were limited to a common chord
progression that is not protectable by copyright and that Sheeran did not copy
protectable elements of Gaye's song.
In conclusion, the court found that Sheeran did not infringe on the copyright of
Gaye's song. The court found that the similarities between the two songs were
limited to a common chord progression that is not protectable by copyright and
that Sheeran did not copy protectable elements of Gaye's song. This case
highlights the difficulty of establishing copyright infringement in cases
involving musical compositions, where similarities between two songs may be
limited to a common chord progression that is widely used in popular music.