Ed Sheeran and Fellow Songwriters Chime In On ‘Thinking Out Loud’ Singer’s Copyright Infringement Case

Ed Sheeran and Fellow Songwriters Chime In On ‘Thinking Out Loud’ Singer’s Copyright Infringement Case

In Manhattan federal court on Thursday, Ed Sheeran celebrated winning the copyright lawsuit that was filed against him in 2018 by Structured Asset Sales. The lawsuit accused him of copying parts of Marvin Gaye’s hit 1973 R&B song, Let’s Get It On, for his acclaimed 2014 soul track, Thinking Out Loud.

Structured Asset Sales is a company that owns part of the copyrights of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote Let’s Get It On. The plaintiffs in the case alleged the chord progression in Sheeran’s single was a rip-off of the one featured in Gaye’s single.

After the entity filed the federal copyright infringement case, Judge Louis Stanton decided last September that Sheeran and the company would have to argue their points in front of a jury. The jurors would then have to decide if Thinking Out Loud indeed copied Gaye’s No. 1 song.

To support his defense, the British artist’s team had him demonstrate the differences in the two tracks’ chords by playing his guitar on the stand. Sheeran’s attorneys also spent the past few months unsuccessfully trying to get the case dismissed.

The English singer-songwriter even threatened to quit music entirely if he would have been found guilty of copyright infringement, the New York Post is reporting. His attorney asked him what he’d do if the plaintiffs won the case, he responded: “If that happens, I’m done. I’m stopping… I find it really insulting to work my whole life as a singer-songwriter and diminish it.”

Sheeran has vehemently insisted that any similarities between his track and Gaye’s song are purely coincidental. He also noted that those similarities were too common to constitute copyright infringement.

The British artist also defended his songwriting on Thinking Out Loud during an interview that aired yesterday on CBS Sunday Morning but was filmed before the trial. During the interview with the news program’s correspondent, Seth Doane, the musician revealed that his team didn’t want him discussing the case against him, but he did anyway.

“There’s like four chords that get used in pop songs,” Sheeran explained to Doane. “And if you just think mathematically the likelihood of this song having the same chords as this song – there’s multiple, multiple songs – it’s all the same four chords.

“You are going to get this with every single pop song from now on. Unless it just stops, which I don’t think it does because it’s a big-money business to take things to court,” the singer-songwriter continued. “But like you can only get caught out if you’ve done something wrong, and I have not done something wrong. I used four chords that are very common cords to use.”

After his legal victory, Sheeran addressed press outside of the court on Thursday. He said: “I am obviously very happy with the outcome of the case, and it looks like I’m not having to retire from my day job after all.

“But at the same time, I am 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 used by songwriters every day, all over the world,” the musician continued.

“These chords are common building blocks which were used to create music long before Let’s Get It On was written. They’ll be used to make music long after we are all gone,” Sheeran added.

The British artist also spoke about Townsend estate’s motivation in filing the lawsuit on SiriusXM. “There was nothing malicious in it, it just was something that I think spun out of control and just ended up…you know, no one talked to each other, basically, and now we’re in this situation,” he revealed.

Sheeran’s fellow songwriters have since commented on the accusations made against Thinking Out Loud, which won two Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year, in 2016. In a conversation with Rolling Stone, fellow British singer-songwriter-record producer, James “JHart” Abrahart said that if Sheeran lost the case, it would have “changed the landscape.”

Abrahart who has penned tracks for Justin Bieber, Usher and Camila Cabello, added: “If this case had turned out differently, it would have completely changed the landscape.”

Other songwriters have also expressed their indignation at the idea that a track’s chord progression can be copyrighted. “Ed and (his co-writer on Thinking Out Loud,) Amy (Wadge) had a new thought over a traditional arrangement,” said Jamie Hartman, who has penned melodies for such artists as Backstreet Boys, Lewis Capaldi, Jennifer Hudson and Calvin Harris.

“Coming up with an original lyric and an original melody is new. That’s the brief. That’s what you have to do daily as a professional writer,” the English songwriter and producer added.

Jenna Andrews who has scribed tracks for Jennifer Lopez and BTS, also chimed in on Sheeran’s lawsuit: “It’s always kind of frustrating when someone’s like, ‘Oh, this reminds you of something.’ And sometimes they can’t even name the song, but they’re so nervous that they’re stepping on something that they’re just like, let’s go to something else.”

Hart added that these cases have created an environment that inhibits creativity. “I have a couple colleagues who have been to court,” he shared. “And one of them specifically, it’s really affected them. They’re really sort of scared in rooms and it feels triggering for them.

“And it’s just stifling for people. I’ve seen how it affects people, obviously financially as well, but just being able to be free and be creative,” the writer added.

The verdict in the case was announced just two days before Sheeran started his Mathematics Tour. The tour will primarily run in North America arenas, as well as a number of intimate theater shows.

Check out more of Karen Benardello’s articles.

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