Ed Sheeran won’t ‘have to retire… after all’ – as he wins copyright trial over claims he copied Marvin Gaye song

US News

Ed Sheeran has won his copyright trial over similarities between his hit single Thinking Out Loud and the Marvin Gaye 1973 classic Let’s Get It On.

Sheeran was accused of ripping off part of the famed soul track Gaye created with fellow songwriter Ed Townsend in a lawsuit originally filed by heirs of Townsend in 2017.

They alleged the British star’s hit 2014 number one has “striking similarities” to Let’s Get It On and “overt common elements” that infringe their copyright.

On Thursday, a New York jury decided that Sheeran did not infringe copyright of Let’s get It On, Reuters reported

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Ed Sheeran plays his guitar on the witness stand during his testimony with Judge Louis Stanton presiding, Monday, May 1, 2023 in Manhattan federal court. Sheeran continued testifying, Monday, to deny allegations that his hit song "Thinking Out Loud" ripped off Marvin Gaye's soul classic "Let's Get It On." (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
Pic: Elizabeth Williams/AP

During a week-long hearing at a federal court in Manhattan, New York, jurors heard arguments from both sides – as well as a few brief guitar sing-alongs from Sheeran and a recording of the star himself playing a “mash-up” of the two songs on stage.

Both Sheeran and the song’s co-writer, Amy Wadge, gave evidence during the hearing, telling jurors they did not copy Let’s Get It On.

“When you write songs, somebody comes after you,” Sheeran told the court, saying he finds it “insulting” to be accused of stealing other people’s songs. The star also said he would be “done” with music should he lose the case, according to reports.

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The star said he and other performers frequently perform “mash ups” of songs and that on other occasions he had combined Thinking Out Loud with Van Morrison’s Crazy Love and Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You.

Gaye, who died in 1984, collaborated with Townsend, who died in 2003, to write Let’s Get It On, which topped the Billboard charts in the year it was released. It went on to appear in numerous films and adverts, and has garnered hundreds of millions of streams and radio plays in the past 50 years.

Kathryn Townsend Griffin, daughter of Ed Townsend, Marvin Gaye's co-writer "Let's Get It On" speaks to the media as she arrives at Manhattan Federal Court for the copyright trial against singer Ed Sheeran in New York City, U.S., April 26, 2023. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Kathryn Townsend Griffin, daughter of Ed Townsend, Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On co-writer, pictured outside court

Sheeran, who is from Suffolk, is one of the most successful modern music stars in the world, and Thinking Out Loud, which won a Grammy for song of the year in 2016, is among his biggest hits.

The result in New York comes after the British star won a similar copyright case in the UK in 2022.

In that hearing, he was accused by two lesser-known songwriters of ripping off part of one of their songs for his huge 2017 hit Shape Of You. However, the judge ruled that Sheeran “neither deliberately nor subconsciously” copied a hook from the song.

Following the ruling, Sheeran released a video statement hitting out at “baseless” copyright claims that are “damaging” to the industry.

Ed Sheeran, left, and Amy Wadge accept the award for song of the year for “Thinking Out Loud” at the 58th annual Grammy Awards on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
Sheeran and his Thinking Out Loud co-writer Amy Wadge picked up the award for song of the year at the Grammys in 2016

It has been a difficult period for the star, who opened up about his mental health struggles as he released details of his latest album Divide earlier in 2022 – revealing that his wife was diagnosed with a tumour while she was pregnant and that he suffered “fear, depression and anxiety” as he dealt with her diagnosis as well as the death of his close friend Jamal Edwards.

During the trial, he made a rare red carpet appearance for the premiere of his mini documentary series The Sum Of It All, which covers his life around the making of Divide.

“I feel that the series tackles subjects that everyone goes through, so it’s not like me being like, ‘I’m a famous person. These are famous problems’,” he said at the event. “I feel like everyone goes through grief, everyone goes through mental health troubles and everyone has a sickness in their family.”

Sheeran is also facing further claims about Thinking Out Loud in New York from a company that holds copyright interests in the Gaye song.

In 2015, Gaye’s heirs won a $5.3 million judgment from a lawsuit claiming the Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams song Blurred Lines copied Gaye’s Got To Give It Up.

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