A jury will decide if Ed Sheeran’s song ‘Thinking Out Loud’ copied Marvin Gaye’s iconic ‘Let’s Get It On’. The news comes after a US judge ruled that a jury will decide on whether or not Sheeran is guilty of ripping off Gaye’s classic song.
Sheeran’s request to dismiss the lawsuit, which accuses him of ripping off the 1973 song, was rejected by District Judge, Louis Stanton, in Manhattan. In a decision, made public on Thursday, Stanton said that there were “substantial similarities between several of the two works’ musical elements,” which includes the bass lines and percussion of both tracks.
Alongside the “similarities” between the two songs, Judge Stanton also referenced performances of Sheeran “seamlessly transitioning between [the songs]”, to support the reasoning for the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was brought by the estate and heirs of late producer Ed Townsend, who co-wrote ‘Let’s Get It On’ with Gaye. It names Sheeran, his co-writer Amy Padge, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, and the Atlantic record label, as defendants. However, Sheeran, 27, denies copying Gaye’s classic song.
The defence argued that, Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ was a “sexual anthem”, while ‘Thinking Out Loud’ was characterised by “sombre, melancholic tones, addressing long-lasting romantic love.” ‘Thinking Out Loud’ reached number one in the UK singles charts, in November 2014, while ‘Let’s Get It On’ hit number one in the US, in September 1973.
As well as the “substantial similarities” between the two songs, Judge Stanton ruled it was disputed whether the harmonic rhythm of ‘Let’s Get It On’ is too common to deserve copyright protect or whether Sheeran instead violated its copyright. Despite this, the Judge Stanton said listeners could view them as having the same “aesthetic appeal”.
Judge Stanton is also presiding over Sheeran’s second lawsuit alleging Sheeran copied ‘Let’s Get It On’. In the second case Structured Asset Sales (SAS), which owns one-third of Townsend’s estate, is suing for $100m (£79m).
Meanwhile, 2017 Sheeran settled a $20m copyright infringement claim against him in the US, over his hit song ‘Photograph’. Songwriters Thomas Leonard and Martin Harrington sued the singer, in 2016, claiming his hit ballad had a similar structure to their song ‘Amazing’.
In 2017, the team behind TLC’s 1999 single ‘No Scrubs’ were given writing credits on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You‘. This came after critics and fans made comparisons between elements of the songs.