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Ed Sheeran facing $20 million lawsuit over alleged song rip-off

A songwriting duo are claiming Sheeran’s Photograph mimics a song they released in 2011.

Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran
Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran
Image: Yui Mok/PA Wire

ED SHEERAN IS facing into a potentially costly legal battle after claims from two songwriters that he copied elements of one of their songs.

The allegation relates to the track Photograph, which Sheeran released as a single last year and which is on his album ‘X’.

The song was also prominently featured in the film Me Before You, which tells the story of a woman who falls in love with a paralysed man she is taking care of.

Court documents filed in the LA federal court in the Central District of California, representatives for British songwriter Martin Harrington and American Thomas Leonard, and their publishing company HaloSongs, claim that a knowing infringement took place in relation to their song ‘Amazing’.

They are seeking damages of $20 million (€17.6 million) as well as royalties for the song.

Another defendant named in the document is Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid, a co-writer on Sheeran’s song, as well as various divisions of record labels and publishing companies associated with the track.

In a section of the documents outlining the complaint it states:

This is an action for willful copyright infringement in which Sheeran and McDaid, the credited writers of the international hit song “Photograph,” among others, copied, and exploited, without authorisation or credit, the work of other active, professional songwriters, on a breathtaking scale, unabashedly taking credit for the work of these songwriters by claiming it to be their own.
This copying is, in many instances, verbatim, note-for-note copying, makes up nearly one half of “Photograph,” and raises this case to the unusual level of strikingly similar copying.

Harrington has previously had involvement in hit singles in both the UK and the US.

Artists he has worked with in the past include Stevie Wonder, Celine Dion, 5ive and Natalie Imbruglia.

In the court documents it states that Leonard is a “successful American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist” who previously worked with the Backstreet Boys.

The song Amazing gained prominence after being released on the debut album of X Factor winner Matt Cardle, Letters.

It has just over 1.1 million views on YouTube, compared to the 200+ million on Sheeran’s track.

And just how similar are the two songs? Judge for yourself… 

The version of Amazing recorded by X Factor winner Matt Cardle:

Source: MattCardleVEVO/YouTube

And here is Ed Sheeran’s Photograph:

Source: Ed Sheeran/YouTube

The solicitors being used by Harrington and Leonard are the same ones used by Marvin Gaye’s family last year when they took a case against Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke over the song Blurred Lines.

The action resulted in them receiving a payout of €7 million.

The judgement set a precedent in the industry, as the song recreated the feel of Marvin Gaye’s Got to Give it Up, rather than mimicking specific musical elements from within the song.

Comments have been turned off on this article as legal proceedings are ongoing. 

Read: Marvin Gaye’s family thinks Pharell’s ‘Happy’ is another rip-off

Also: That US jury’s Blurred Lines verdict could change the entire music business

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