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Ed Sheeran's Thinking Out Loud did not copy Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On, US court rules

Ed Sheeran said that other musicians were cheering him on during the trial, but did not identify them.

LAST UPDATE | 4 May 2023

ED SHEERAN HAS won a US copyright lawsuit which alleged he copied parts of Marvin Gaye’s hit song Let’s Get It On for his own track Thinking Out Loud.

The British musician was taken to court by the family of Ed Townsend, Gaye’s co-writer of the 1973 soul classic.

They claimed that Sheeran’s 2014 song, written with collaborator Amy Wadge, bore “striking similarities” and “overt common elements” to Let’s Get It On.

Following a trial in New York, which included several live singing performances by Sheeran, jurors found he had not infringed on the family’s copyright interest in Gaye’s song.

Sheeran sang and played the guitar on the witness stand during the trial, giving jurors a fleeting free concert. 

He played the basic four-chord progression of his Grammy-winning song, “Thinking Out Loud,” denying that it is a copy of Marvin Gaye’s 1973 soul classic “Let’s Get It On,” the New York Times said.

The musician also sang what he said were his song’s original lyrics, “I’m singing out now,” ABC News reported.

During the course of the trial, Sheeran said that he was getting support from other prominent musicians who he said share his worries over litigation related to songwriting. 

He did not identify any of them, but said they are cheering him on – grateful that he is standing up against what all songwriters view as a threat to their work.

Ben Crump, lawyer for the heirs of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote Gaye’s soul classic, claimed that his team had “smoking gun proof” that Sheeran copied the song. 

In his opening statement, Mr Crump said English pop star Sheeran merged the two songs in concert and jurors will get to see it.

Merging the song was tantamount to “a confession”, Mr Crump said.

“We have a smoking gun,” he said of the concert footage showing Sheeran flipping between the two songs.

Sheeran said he was “obviously very happy” after winning.

Speaking outside court in New York, he said: “I’m obviously very happy with the outcome of this case and it looks like I’m not going to have to retire from my day job after all.

“But at the same time I am absolutely 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.

“We need to be able to write our original music and engage in independent creativity without worrying at every step on the way that said creativity will be wrongly called into question.”

Sheeran described himself as “just a guy with a guitar who loves writing music for people to enjoy”.

“I am not and never will allow myself to be a piggy bank for someone to shake.”

Sheeran also criticised the lawsuit which meant he missed his grandmother’s funeral in Ireland on Wednesday.

He said: “Having to be in New York for this trial has meant that I have missed being with my family at my grandmother’s funeral in Ireland. I won’t get that time back.

“We need songwriters and the wider musical community to come together to celebrate and support creativity.

“These claims and the people who manipulate songwriters for their own gain need to be stopped so that the creative process can carry on and we can all get back to making music.”

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