Ed Sheeran Cleared of Copyright Infringement Case
Ed Sheeran Cleared of Copyright Infringement in High-Profile Music Case
After a four-year legal battle, British pop star Ed Sheeran has been cleared of copyright infringement in a case brought against him by the family of Ed Townsend, co-writer of Marvin Gaye’s hit song “Let’s Get It On.”
Sheeran was accused of copying elements of “Let’s Get It On” in his 2014 hit song “Thinking Out Loud.” In 2018, a company with a stake in Townsend’s estate filed a lawsuit against Sheeran based on this accusation. The trial began in April of this year, and the case was heard by a federal jury.
Throughout the trial, Sheeran argued that the chords in the two songs are building blocks that songwriters everywhere use, and that he did not copy “Let’s Get It On.” He even played guitar on the stand to demonstrate the similarities and differences between the two songs.
Finally, on May 4, 2023, the jury ruled in favor of Sheeran, finding that he did not violate the copyright of “Let’s Get It On.” Sheeran expressed his relief and happiness at the verdict, stating on the courthouse steps, “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.”
One interesting aspect of the case was that the jurors were not allowed to hear “Let’s Get It On” in the courtroom. This was because the copyright in question was only for the sheet music, not the finished composition and recording. However, the audience listening to the NPR news segment reporting on the verdict was able to hear both songs in full.
The verdict has been seen as a victory for Sheeran and for songwriters everywhere. It reinforces the idea that building blocks of music, such as chords and melody, are not protected by copyright, and that there must be a substantial similarity between two songs in order for a copyright infringement claim to be valid.
The Townsend estate has not yet commented on the verdict. However, it is expected that they may appeal the decision.
The case has been closely watched by the music industry and legal experts, and the verdict is likely to have implications for future music copyright cases.