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Ed Sheeran
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Ed Sheeran wins copyright court case over Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’

Ed Sheeran has won a copyright court case that claimed he copied parts of Marvin Gaye’s hit song “Let’s Get It On” in his award-winning track, “Thinking Out Loud.” The British musician was taken to court by the family of Ed Townsend, Gaye’s co-writer of the classic 1970s tune. They said Sheeran’s 2014 song, written with collaborator Amy Wadge, bore “striking similarities” and “overt common elements” to “Let’s Get It On.”

The case lasted for two weeks, during which the jury was shown a video of a concert in Switzerland in which Sheeran can be heard on stage blending “Let’s Get It On” and “Thinking Out Loud.” Sheeran himself sometimes performed the two songs together, according to the lawyer representing the Townsend heirs.

When the jury delivered their verdict, the Shape of You singer briefly put his hands over his face in relief before standing and hugging his lawyer. They deliberated for just under three hours. The Suffolk-born star had previously threatened to quit music if he lost the case, but speaking outside court on Thursday, he said: “it looks like I’m not going to have to retire from my day job after all.”

Sheeran’s song, which came out in 2014, was a hit, winning a Grammy for Song of the Year. The 32-year-old, who described himself as “just a guy with a guitar who loves writing music for people to enjoy,” slammed the copyright infringement claim. Speaking outside court in New York, he said: “I am absolutely frustrated that baseless claims like this are allowed to go to court at all.”

The family of Ed Townsend brought the case against Sheeran, his label Warner Music Group, and his music publisher Sony Music Publishing, in 2017. Their original complaint claimed Sheeran had infringed on their interest in Gaye’s song by copying its “harmonic progressions, melodic and rhythmic elements” – which they described as the “heart” of the track. The family requested a preliminary and permanent injunction against any future recording, distribution, or public performance of “Thinking Out Loud.”

During the trial, Sheeran repeatedly picked up a guitar resting behind him on the witness stand to demonstrate how he seamlessly creates “mashups” of songs during concerts to “spice it up a bit” for his sizeable crowds. The singer insisted, sometimes angrily, that the trial was a threat to all musicians who create their own music. He reportedly became frustrated at times, describing the testimony of one of the plaintiff’s expert witnesses as “criminal” and said that he found the entire case “really insulting.”

“If the jury had decided this matter the other way we might as well say goodbye to the creative freedom of songwriters,” said Sheeran. “We need to be able to write our original music and engage in independent creativity without worrying at every step on the way that said creativity will be wrongly called into question.”

The case has raised important questions about copyright infringement and the freedom of songwriters to create original music. It remains to be seen what impact the verdict will have on future cases of this nature. However, one thing is certain: the case has highlighted the importance of giving credit where credit is due.

By: Mr. Alex Wu

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