Thanks to Led Zeppelin, a Federal Judge Puts Ed Sheeran’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ Lawsuit on Hold — Possibly Until 2020

For years, singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran has faced multiple copyright infringement lawsuits.

Three years ago, music publisher HaloSongs filed a $20 million lawsuit against Sheeran on behalf of songwriters Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard.  Both alleged that Sheeran’s song, ‘Photograph,’ infringed on the 2009 song, ‘Amazing.’  Sheeran ultimately settled the lawsuit out of court, adding both writers to the song’s credits.

Then, just two months later, the estate of songwriter Ed Townsend, who penned Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On,’ filed a lawsuit against the British singer/songwriter.  Along with co-writer Amy Wedge, Sheeran apparently copied “the heart of Let’s Get It On.”

Last year, Australian songwriters Sean Carey and Beau Golden filed a $5 million lawsuit over Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s ‘The Rest of Our Life.’  Sheeran co-wrote the song with his team – Johnny McDavid, Steve Mac, and Amy Wedge.  He has asked a federal court in New York to dismiss the lawsuit.

Carey and Golden alleged that the soulful duet “is in many instances, verbatim, note-for-note copying of original elements of [our] song, [which] is obvious to the ordinary observer.”  Both had written the song for Jasmine Rae, a lesser-known Australian artist.

Now, in a closely watched copyright infringement case, a judge has delayed his ruling on the Marvin Gaye case.

Could Led Zeppelin ultimately save Ed Sheeran?

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Louis D. Staton dismissed Ed Sheeran’s summary judgment request.  With the refusal to grant the British singer the dismissal, the case would head for a jury trial.

On Tuesday, the Manhattan federal judge delayed the trial originally set for September.

Jokingly, Judge Staton ordered that both Sheeran and Townsend’s legal teams to “take the summer off!”

The delay comes over Judge Staton’s desire to see the outcome of an appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court in a separate Led Zeppelin case.

Three years ago, a California jury officially rejected claims that the iconic group stole the opening riff of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ from Spirit’s ‘Taurus. ’ The claim was initiated by a descendent of Randy California, a member of Spirit who died in 1997.  Despite attorney Francis Malofiy’s ‘spirited’ plagiarism accusations against Led Zeppelin, his case soon fell apart.  As part of their defense, attorneys for Led Zeppelin revealed that the song’s famous guitar riff actually exists in the public domain.

The case should’ve stopped there.  It didn’t.

Undeterred with ‘evidence’ supporting Led Zeppelin, Randy California’s offspring filed an appeal.  The Ninth Circuit Court agreed to hear the case.  The court cited the original Los Angeles jury’s alleged “misunderstanding” of copyright law as the reason for retrial.

The Ninth Circuit Court will hear the case on September 23rd.  It remains unclear how long the court will take to reach a second decision.

In Manhattan, Judge Staton explained,

Whatever the Ninth Circuit says, it’s going to be damned educational.  To proceed in willful ignorance of them is folly.

The Manhattan judge explained should the Led Zeppelin case head to the Supreme Court, he may delay the trial once again.

If it goes to the Supreme Court, whose decisions are binding…it might assist settlement.”


Featured image by Mark Kent (CC by 2.0).

One Response

  1. Susan Bravo

    The Stairway to Heaven/Taurus case is about a similarity in a guitar picked melody and the The “Let’s Get It On” case is about a similar bass line but that bass line is
    totally reliant on a similar common public domain chord progression (I iii IV V) and a rhythm created by the chord phrasing/timing Townsend copied from another song (The Who’s,” Song is Over” )..historically not copyrightable elements and typically common bass line elements found in all songs within a genre.
    What these two cases really have in common is unclear.