Pop star, Ed Sheeran, has been ordered to stand trial in the US over claims he copied his hit song ‘Thinking Out Loud’ from Marvin Gaye’s, ‘Let’s Get It On’.
A US District Judge, Louis Stanton, denied Sheeran’s bid to dismiss the case, saying a jury should decide on the similarities between the songs.
Judge Louis Stanton cited a disagreement between musical experts on both sides of the lawsuit as a reason for ordering the trial.
The prospect of a jury trial will be an unwelcome one for Sheeran. Copyright lawyers have often argued that juries have difficulty understanding the complexities of copyright law, and why superficial similarities between two songs are not necessarily proof of plagiarism.
In his order, Judge Stanton also ruled that jurors must decide whether SAS can include concert revenue in damages, rejecting Sheeran’s argument that ticket sales weren’t tied to the alleged infringement.
His lawyers did not comment on the judge’s ruling. A lawyer for Structured Asset Sales, Hillel Parness, stated that the company was “pleased” with the ruling.
After that ruling, the singer lashed out at what he described as “baseless” copyright claims, which he stated were “way too common”.
The move comes six months after Sheeran was cleared of copying his hit song ‘Shape Of You’ at a trial in London.
The claim over ‘Thinking Out Loud’ was originally lodged in 2018, not by Gaye’s family, but by investment banker, David Pullman, and a company called Structured Asset Sales, which has acquired a portion of the estate of ‘Let’s Get It On’ co-writer, Ed Townsend.
Seeking $100m in damages, they allege that Sheeran and his co-writer Amy Wadge “copied and exploited, without authorisation or credit” the Gaye song, “including but not limited to the melody, rhythms, harmonies, drums, bass line, backing chorus, tempo, syncopation and looping”.
Sheeran’s 2014-2015 tour earned $150m (£135m), according to music industry trade publication, Pollstar.
This is not the only trial Sheeran is facing over ‘Thinking Out Loud’, which went to number one in the UK in 2014 and won song of the year at the Grammy Awards in 2016.
SAS has filed a second case, which is currently on pause, while a separate suit by another portion of Townsend’s estate is awaiting trial.
Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ trial
In March, at the Shape of You a trial, the singer and his co-writers, John McDaid and Steven McCutcheon, faced accusations that a hook on their track was ripped off ‘Oh Why’, a 2015 song by Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue.
However, a High Court judge concluded they had “neither deliberately nor subconsciously” plagiarised the earlier song, and awarded the star and his co-defendants £900,000 in costs.
After the judgement, Sheeran declared on Instagram: “I hope that this ruling means in the future baseless claims like this can be avoided. This really does have to end”.
Sheeran explained that the trial is “really damaging” to the song writing industry. He explained that due to the fact that there are so many notes and very few chords used in pop music, “coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 songs” are being released every day on Spotify.
“That’s 22 million songs a year, and there’s only 12 notes that are available.”Ed Sheeran
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