Ed Sheeran Puts Musicologist on Blast as Copyright Counteroffensive Continues

Ed Sheeran musicologist
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Ed Sheeran musicologist
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Photo Credit: Harald Krichel / CC by 3.0

As the Marvin Gaye copyright infringement trial against Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” continues, Sheeran has some choice words about a musicologist who testified against him last week.

Ed Sheeran is none too pleased with a musicologist who testified against him in the Marvin Gaye copyright infringement trial. Musicologist Alexander Stewart testified last week for the estate of Ed Townsend, which accuses Sheeran of lifting aspects of Marvin Gaye’s classic “Let’s Get It On” (which Townsend co-wrote) for his 2014 hit “Thinking Out Loud.” 

“I think what he’s doing here is criminal,” the singer-songwriter said in court earlier this week. “I don’t know why he’s allowed to be an expert.”

Stewart’s job was to prove to the jury that “Let’s Get It On” and “Thinking Out Loud” are sufficiently similar to constitute copyright infringement. Sheeran’s defense team has enlisted its own expert who asserts that at least thirteen other songs cited as examples use the same chord progression shared between the Gaye and Sheeran works — all of which predate “Let’s Get It On.”

During his testimony last week, Stewart played a computer-generated version of the Gaye song for the court to illustrate the similarities with Sheeran’s track. This week, Sheeran took the stand with his guitar in hand to demonstrate the prevalence of that chord progression in popular music. He also accused Stewart of misrepresenting his song to confuse the jury with a “horrible depiction.”

“I know he’s wrong because I wrote it myself,” said the 32-year-old Sheeran. 

“The two songs share versions of a similar and unprotectable chord progression that was freely available to all songwriters,” Sheeran’s lawyers said in a court filing.

Ed Sheeran has dealt with accusations of copyright infringement in the past. The singer-songwriter won a previous lawsuit in the UK in 2017 involving his song “Shape of You.

“I feel like claims like this are way too common now and have become a culture where a claim is made with the idea that a settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court, even if there is no basis for the claim,” Sheeran said in a video posted to Twitter at the time of the UK lawsuit. “It’s really damaging to the songwriting industry.”

The US trial involving “Thinking Out Loud” began with jury selection on April 24 and is expected to last two weeks.