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A US jury has ruled that Ed Sheeran did not plagiarize Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” while composing his 2014 hit “Thinking Out Loud.”
The lawsuit was filed by the heirs of Gaye co-writer Ed Townsend, who claimed that Sheeran had lifted harmonic progressions and rhythmic elements from the classic song without permission.
After hearing the evidence, the jury decided that Sheeran “independently” created his hit song, and he reportedly hugged his team when the verdict was announced. The heirs of Townsend had sought a portion of the profits from “Thinking Out Loud.”
During the civil trial, Sheeran played a number of songs from the witness stand and testified that he writes most of his songs in a single day. He also revealed that he co-wrote “Thinking Out Loud” with singer-songwriter Amy Wadge at his home in February 2014.
“We sat guitar to guitar,” Sheeran said, according to US media reports. “We wrote together quite a lot.”
The jurors were tasked with determining whether the two songs were substantially similar and whether any common elements were protected by copyright law.
Ed Sheeran’s defense team argued against the allegations that he plagiarized Marvin Gaye’s hit song “Let’s Get It On” when creating his own hit “Thinking Out Loud.”
They said that many other songs before and after Gaye’s song had used similar chord progressions.
A musicologist brought in by the defense backed up this argument in court documents.
The outcome of the lawsuit had been closely watched by the music industry as it could have set a legal precedent regarding songwriters’ rights.
This was the second time in a year that Sheeran was involved in a copyright lawsuit, having successfully testified in a London court last April about his song “Shape of You.”
In that case, the judge ruled in his favor.
“Thinking Out Loud” was a huge success, reaching the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts and winning Sheeran a Song of the Year award at the Grammys in 2016.
Copyright lawsuits related to songs have become increasingly common in recent years, and in 2016, Gaye’s family won a lawsuit against artists Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and T.I. over similarities between their song “Blurred Lines” and Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up.”
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