British pop star Ed Sheeran has won a lawsuit in New York over allegations of plagiarism. A jury acquitted the 32-year-old singer-songwriter in a civil trial on Thursday of charges of copying Marvin Gaye's 1973 soul classic "Let's Get It On" for his hit "Thinking Out Loud." Rather, Sheeran created the song "independently."
After the verdict was announced, Sheeran hugged his legal team, an AFP reporter reported in the courtroom. The ruling has far-reaching implications for the music industry. The procedure dealt with the fundamental question of whether certain chord progressions are protected by copyright or whether they can be used by different musicians.
The heirs of Ed Townsend, who wrote "Let's Get It On" with Marvin Gaye, had sued the British singer. Townsend's heirs spoke of "striking similarities and apparent common elements" between "Let's Get It On" and Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud" from 2014. As evidence, they cited that the band Boyz II Men already made medleys of the two songs performed - and Sheeran has also mixed the two tracks at performances.
Sheeran's attorneys said there were "dozens or even hundreds of songs" before or after "Let's Get It On" that used "the same or similar chord progression." A musicologist called as a witness by the defense confirmed this, saying the four-chord sequence in question had been used repeatedly in songs even before Gaye's 1973 hit.
During the civil trial, Sheeran himself testified - picking up the guitar to play the crucial four chords.