British Singer Ed Sheeran Wins Thinking Out Loud Copyright Case

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The Manhattan jury, which determined that Sheeran did not wrongfully copy compositional elements or melodies from “Let’s Get It On,” found that the singer-songwriter “independently” created his song.

British pop star Ed Sheeran did not copy parts of the melody of Marvin Gaye’s 1973 soul classic “Let’s Get It On” when composing his own hit “Thinking Out Loud,” a United States court ruled on Thursday.

In the trial that kicked off in a Manhattan federal courtroom on April 25, the 32-year-old had denied stealing elements of the song for his 2014 worldwide hit, which won the 2016 Grammy award for song of the year.

Heirs of Gaye’s co-writer Ed Townsend argued that Sheeran, Warner Music Group, and Sony Music Publishing owed them money for copyright infringement.

The plaintiffs had alleged similarities between the chord progression, harmonic rhythm, and certain melodies in the two songs, while Sheeran’s legal team had argued that the melodies are different and the elements used in both songs are common in pop music.

Sheeran had said he would give up his music career if found guilty at the trial in New York. “If that happens, I’m done, I’m stopping,” he said when asked about the toll the trial at Manhattan federal court was taking on him.

The musician stood up and hugged his lawyers when the verdict was read, with his wife Cherry Seaborn and his “Thinking Out Loud” co-writer Amy Wadge in tears. 

Speaking outside the courthouse, he said: “I’m obviously very happy with the outcome of the case, and it looks like I’m not having to retire from my day job after all.”

“But at the same time I’m unbelievably frustrated that baseless claims like this are allowed to go to court at all,” he added. “If the jury had decided this matter the other way we might as well say goodbye to the creative freedom of songwriters.”

“I am not and will never allow myself to be a piggy bank for anyone to shake,” he said.

Sheeran said eight years were spent talking about two songs with “dramatically” different lyrics melodies “and four chords which are also different and used by songwriters every day all over the world.”

During the civil trial, he sang and played the opening line of “Thinking Out Loud” for the jury in an attempt to rebut the testimony of the plaintiff’s expert witness. He also said he found the allegations in the case “really insulting.”

The trial also saw Keisha Rice, who represented the heirs of Townsend, say her clients were not claiming to own basic musical elements but rather “the way in which these common elements were uniquely combined.”