BREAKING: Ed Sheeran has won the copyright infringement lawsuit that he previously said could be the end of his music career.
After a two-week trial in Manhattan, the jury found that the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter did not plagiarize Marvin Gaye’s 1973 soul classic “Let’s Get It On.”
The lawsuit, filed in 2017 by the estate of the song’s co-writer Ed Townsend, alleged that there were “striking similarities” between the earlier song and Sheeran’s 2014 hit “Thinking Out Loud.”
According to the New York Times, jurors deliberated for three hours before announcing their verdict at 1 pm on Thursday, finding that Sheeran and his co-writer Amy Wadge created the song independently and did not infringe on any copyright.
The co-writers reportedly hugged after the verdict was revealed.
Lawsuit over chord progression
The plaintiff’s argument was that “Thinking Out Loud” used a similar chord progression to “Let’s Get It On.” Their expert witness Alexander Stewart claimed that the chords used were “virtually identical.”
But Sheeran and Wadge, testifying before the court, argued that it was a very common progression used in many songs, and that they were simply using the chords to write an independent song.
“I was just playing some simple chords that I knew how to play,” Wadge testified, saying it was “not possible” for her to have infringed on another song.
“I think what he’s doing is criminal here,” Sheeran said of Stewart. “I don’t know why he’s allowed to be an expert.”
Sheeran also reportedly played the chords to the tunes of multiple other songs to demonstrate how common the progression is.
Missed his grandmother’s funeral
The lawsuit caused a great deal of personal stress for Sheeran. Not only did it put his career and reputation in jeopardy, but the court case forced him to miss his grandmother’s funeral in Ireland this week.
“I’m very sad that our son, Edward, is unable to be here today,” Sheeran’s father John said delivering the 98-year-old’s eulogy on Wednesday, according to the Daily Mail. “He’s so upset that he cannot be present. He has to be thousands of miles away in a court in America defending his integrity.”
“This week, for me at the moment, I got the documentary coming out, I got the album [Subtract] coming out Friday, I start my tour on Saturday, my grandmother’s funeral is [Wednesday] [and] I’m still in this court case,” Sheeran told Gayle King, per ET.
“It’s just another point in life when life is happening. Doesn’t mean 2023 is a write-off. The worst days of your life always end at midnight.”
Sheeran “done” with music if guilty
The case had stoked fears of litigation among professional musicians: a verdict siding with the plaintiffs could have potentially opened up a floodgate of lawsuits against artists for using similar chord progressions.
Speaking about his own case earlier this week, Mr. Sheeran said he would go as far as to quit music if he lost the case.
“If that happens, I’m done, I’m stopping,” Sheeran told People. “I find it to be really insulting. I work really hard to be where I’m at.”
One of the most high-profile recent cases also involved the late Marvin Gaye’s music: a five-year legal battle regarding the hit song “Blurred Lines” ended with Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams paying $5 million to Marvin Gaye’s estate, which alleged strong similarities to two of Gaye’s songs.
Sheeran has also faced his own previous lawsuits: he won a previous copyright infringement lawsuit in the UK last year over his song “Shape of You.” At the time, Sheeran slammed “baseless” musical lawsuits.
“I’m not an entity, I’m not a corporation, I’m a human being,” he said. “I’m a father, I’m a husband, I’m a son. Lawsuits are not a pleasant experience, and I hope that this ruling, it means in the future, baseless claims like this can be avoided. This really does have to end.”
Congrats to Ed Sheeran and Amy Wadge on winning this court case! Having a similar chord progression does not amount to plagiarism, and this victory is a win for musicians everywhere.
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