When you think of Ed Sheeran, you probably think of slow, soft pop… The kind of songs they play on the radio. But when you think of Marvin Gaye, you think soulful and funky. The two artists are far from comparable, but Ed Sheeran was taken to court in a headline-grabbing lawsuit for allegedly copying Marvin Gaye.

So, let’s get it on!

Ed Sheeran’s 2014 hit song “Thinking Out Loud,” was accused of stealing Marvin Gaye’s harmonic progressions as well as the melodic and rhythmic elements in Gaye’s most well-known song, “Let’s Get It On.” The lawsuit was filed by the heirs of Ed Townsend. Townsend was the artist who composed “Let’s Get It On,” with Marvin Gaye.

Initially, the copyright infringement lawsuit was filed in 2017, but it took approximately six years to make it to Manhattan federal court. Last Thursday, it took a total of 2 hours and 30 minutes to reach a final decision regarding the alleged copyright infringement.

On May 4th, Ed Sheeran, who vehemently denied copying the elements found in Gaye’s and Townsend’s hit song, won the lawsuit, which ostensibly sought $100 million in damages. The Manhattan jury found that Ed Sheeran did NOT plagiarize “Let’s Get It On”. 

Sheeran, who told the court that if he were to lose the case, he would be done with music for the foreseeable future, made a statement from the courthouse steps following the verdict:

“I’m obviously very happy with the outcome of the case. It looks like I’m not having to retire from my day job after all. At the same time, I’m unbelievably frustrated that baseless claims like this are allowed to go to court at all. We’ve spent the last eight years talking about two songs with dramatically different lyrics, melodies and four chords, which are also different and are used by songwriters every day, all over the world. These chords are common building blocks, which were used to create music long before ‘Let’s Get It On’ was written and will be used to make music long after we are all gone. They are in a songwriter’s alphabet, our toolkit, and should be there for all of us to use. No one owns them or the way they’re played in the same way no one owns the color blue. Unfortunately, unfounded claims like this are being fueled by individuals who are offered as music experts in musical analysis. In this instance, the other side’s musicologist left out words and notes; presented different and simple pictures as melodies and by doing so, created what I think we proved for all to see were misleading comparisons and disinformation to find supposed similarities where none exist, and I think we proved for all to see that they tried to manipulate my and Amy’s song to try and convince the jury that they had a genuine claim. I’m very grateful that the jury saw through those attempts. This seems so dangerous to me: both potential claimants who may be convinced to bring a bogus claim as well as those songwriters facing them. It’s simply wrong. By stopping this practice, we can also properly support genuine music copyright claims, so legitimate claims are rightly heard and resolved. 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 creation without worrying at every step of the way that such creativity will be wrongly called into question. Like artists everywhere, Amy and I work hard to independently create songs, which are often based around real-life, personal experience. It’s devastating to be accused of stealing someone else’s song when we’ve put so much work into our livelihoods. I’m just a guy with a guitar who loves writing music for people to enjoy. I am not and will never allow myself to be a piggy bank for someone to shake. Having to be in New York for this trial has meant that I’ve missed being with my family at my grandmother’s funeral in Ireland and I will never get that time back. These trials take a significant toll on everyone involved, including Katherine. I want to thank the jury for making the decision that will help protect the creative process of songwriters here in the United States and all around the world. I also want to thank my team who have supported me throughout this difficult process and to all the songwriters, musicians and fans who’ve reached out with messages of support over the last few weeks. Finally, I would like to thank Amy. Neither of us expected that nine years ago from our wonderful writing session we would have to be here defending our integrity. Amy, I feel so lucky to have you in my life. Thank you. We need songwriters and the wider community to come together and bring back common sense. These claims need to be stopped so the creative process can carry on and we can all go back to making music. At the same time, we absolutely need trusted individuals, real experts who help support the process of protecting copyright. Thank you.”

Sheeran fans across the world can breathe a little easier, knowing the gift of his music will live on.

Ed White Law works with musicians to ensure their intellectual property is properly secured and protected. If you’re an artist who is interested in copyright protection or defense, please contact one of our IP Attorneys today.