Ed Sheeran has taken the stand in the high-profile copyright infringement case that he’s fending off for allegedly lifting elements of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” (1973) to create “Thinking Out Loud” (2014).
The estate of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote “Let’s Get It On” with Gaye and passed away in 2003, first levied the complaint – one of several infringement actions against Ed Sheeran – back in 2016. The suit was then dismissed because the defendants weren’t properly served, and the plaintiffs refiled the following year.
Needless to say, multiple dismissal attempts failed to bring about the desired result for the 32-year-old singer-songwriter, who made his way to a Manhattan courthouse yesterday for the trial’s start. And it didn’t take long for the opposing parties to draw attention to a “smoking gun” clip of a live show that Sheeran delivered in 2014.
The video in question appears to show Sheeran performing a “mashup” of “Thinking Out Loud” and “Let’s Get It On” – proving that the older of the works was used to conceive the much-streamed 2014 release, per the plaintiffs and their legal team. (In moving to include the mashup as evidence, the Townsend estate also sought permission to stage a live performance of “Let’s Get It On” during the trial, though the presiding judge rejected the request.)
When asked about the medley while on the stand, Sheeran indicated that he’d have to be an “idiot” to play the songs together if he had in fact borrowed from the Marvin Gaye classic to craft “Thinking Out Loud,” which has racked up a staggering 2.21 billion Spotify streams.
“I’d be an idiot to stand on a stage in front of 20,000 people and do that,” Sheeran said, according to Fox 5 New York – though the four-time Grammy winner’s exact words vary slightly from outlet to outlet.
Elsewhere during the heavily publicized trial’s opening day, Sheeran reportedly emphasized the relative ease associated with transitioning from song to song, relaying that “you could go from ‘Let It Be’ to ‘No Woman, No Cry’ and switch back,” according to the BBC.
As mentioned, this isn’t the only infringement action that Halifax, West Yorkshire-born Sheeran is fending off – or even the sole infringement case he’s battling in New York over allegedly copied components of “Let’s Get It On” in “Thinking Out Loud.”
The judge who’s presiding over the case spearheaded by Townsend’s heirs is likewise handling a 2018 suit submitted by a company called Structured Asset Sales. Led by one David Pullman (of “Bowie Bonds” fame), the filing entity is said to own one-third of “Let’s Get It On” and claims that Sheeran used the track’s chord progression and other elements to make “Thinking Out Loud.”
“At the same time, we believe that there should be due process for legitimate and warranted copyright protection,” Sheeran and fellow “Shape of You” songwriters said about the legal triumph in a 500-word statement. “However, that is not the same as having a culture where unwarranted claims are easily brought. This is not constructive or conducive to a culture of creativity.”