The British singer Ed Sheeran (32) has won a lawsuit in New York for alleged copyright infringement. Sheeran did not copy his song "Thinking Out Loud" from the song "Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye, a jury unanimously found on Thursday in New York after several hours of deliberations.
"I'm obviously very pleased with the outcome of the case," Sheeran said after the verdict outside the courthouse. "But at the same time, I'm incredibly frustrated that unsubstantiated claims like these are allowed to go to court." For eight years, he and the plaintiffs argued over two songs with dramatically different lyrics and melodies. The underlying four chords would be used every day by songwriters around the world.
Controversy over chords and rhythms
The heirs of US musician Ed Townsend, who died in 2003, accused Sheeran of copyright infringement. Townsend had released the 1973 song "Let's Get It On" featuring Marvin Gaye. Sheeran had defended himself in part in the process and rejected the allegations. "Thinking Out Loud" is based on chords and rhythms that are "basic building blocks of music" that nobody can own. Sheeran cited the similarity between The Beatles' "Let It Be" and Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry".
That's why Sheeran was contrite after the verdict: "It's devastating to be accused of stealing someone else's song when we put so much work into our livelihood." He will never be a "piggy bank" that people can shake to get money. He also missed his grandmother's funeral in Ireland because of the process. "I'll never get that time back."
Guitar in the courtroom
The process had been postponed several times. Sheeran, like some of his colleagues - such as Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams - has repeatedly faced allegations of copyright infringement in recent years.
Sheeran also picked up his own guitar in court to explain to the jury how he writes songs. He played and sang parts of "Thinking Out Loud" and wanted to show how quickly and intuitively he composes songs - sometimes several in one day. This leaves no room for thinking about and copying other songs at the same time.
In their evidence, the plaintiffs' attorneys presented a 2014 mash-up performed by Sheeran: In it, the musician combined his song "Thinking Out Loud" with Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On". This fact clearly proves the copying, so the argument goes. Sheeran responded with incomprehension: "If I had done what you accuse me of, I would be an idiot to put myself on stage in front of 20,000 people and do it."