Jury selection begins in Ed Sheeran’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ copyright infringement lawsuit in New York, which alleges that the 32-year-old singer’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’ bears more than a passing similarity to the Marvin Gaye classic.
A lawsuit filed in 2017 is finally going to trial, alleging that Ed Sheeran’s 2014 track “Thinking Out Loud” bears “striking similarities” to Marvin Gaye’s 1973 soul classic, “Let’s Get It On.”
Sheeran’s attorneys say the songs’ “undeniable” similarities merely point to the foundations of popular music.
“The two songs share versions of a similar and unprotectable chord progression that was freely available to all songwriters,” wrote Sheeran’s attorneys.
Attorneys for the heirs of Ed Townsend (co-writer of the Gaye classic), who filed the initial lawsuit, quickly point out that artists, including Boyz II Men, have performed mashups of the two songs in which they blend seamlessly. Even Sheeran himself has done a mashup of the two songs during live performances.
Initially, attorneys for the Townsend family sought to play a YouTube video of one such Sheeran performance for the jury. Still, federal Manhattan judge, 95-year-old Louis L. Stanton, denied their motion to include it. However, Stanton has said he would reconsider its inclusion after seeing other evidence in the trial.
Alongside Sheeran, other defendants named in the Townsend trial include Sheeran’s label Atlantic Records and Sony/ATV Music Publishing. While plaintiffs in copyright lawsuits are allowed some leeway in casting a wide net to name their defendants, interestingly, Sheeran’s co-writer on “Thinking Out Loud,” Amy Wadge, has not been named.
While Gaye’s estate is not involved in the Townsend case, his heirs were successful in their lawsuit against Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and T.I. over similarities between their 2013 hit “Blurred Lines” and Gaye’s 1977 track “Got to Give It Up.”
A jury awarded Gaye’s estate $7.4 million at trial, later trimmed by a judge to $5.3 million. However, the case remains among the most significant copyright cases in recent years.