Ed Sheeran wins Marvin Gaye copyright trial over single Thinking Out Loud

·3-min read
Ed Sheeran  (Getty Images)
Ed Sheeran (Getty Images)

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.

The British songwriter had denied stealing elements of Gaye’s hit when writing his own 2014 song.

Heirs to the estate of Gaye’s co-writer had sought to argue that Sheeran owed them money for copyright infringement for allegedly copying the melody, harmony and rhythm of Let’s Get It On.

But jurors in New York sided with Sheeran, who had argued the claim if allowed would be a threat to all musicians who create their own music.

The star said he was “obviously very happy” over the victory after having suggested he may leave music if he lost.

Speaking outside court in New York, he said: “I’m obviously very happy with the outcome of this case and it looks like I’m not going to have to retire from my day job after all.

“But at the same time I am absolutely frustrated that baseless claims like this are allowed to go to court at all.”

He added: “If the jury had decided this matter the other way we might as well say goodbye to the creative freedom of songwriters.

“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.”

Sheeran’s legal team had argued that any similarities between the songs involved basic musical “building blocks" that cannot be copyrighted.

During the trial, Sheeran told the jury: “I find it really insulting to devote my whole life to being a performer and a songwriter and have someone diminish it.”

Ed Sheeran arriving at the federal court in New York on April 25, 2023 (Getty Images)
Ed Sheeran arriving at the federal court in New York on April 25, 2023 (Getty Images)

The claim was brought by heirs to the estate of songwriter Ed Townsend, who co-wrote ‘Let’s Get It On’ with Gaye.

Representing them, lawyer Ben Crump pointed to video of a concert in Switzerland in which Sheeran can be heard segueing between the two songs as a “smoking gun” proof he stole from the famous tune.

But when Sheeran testified, he said that singers frequently perform “mash ups," and that he had on other occasions combined his song with Van Morrison's “Crazy Love" and Dolly Parton's “I Will Always Love You."

He played the opening bars to ‘Thinking Out Loud’ on the witness stand and testified that his friend and collaborator Amy Wadge first started strumming the chords for the song during a visit to his home in England.

Sheeran’s song, which came out in 2014, was a hit, winning a Grammy for song of the year.

Last year Sheeran won a copyright battle at the High Court in London over his 2017 Shape of You.

However, he is also facing claims over Thinking Out Loud from a company owned by investment banker David Pullman that holds copyright interests in the Gaye song.

Gaye's heirs previously won an copyright verdict in 2015 when a jury in Los Angeles agreed with the claims that the Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams song “Blurred Lines" copied Gaye's “Got to Give It Up."