British pop phenom Ed Sheeran expressed joy and relief on Thursday after a US jury found that he did not plagiarize Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” in the composition of his hit “Thinking Out Loud”, and that he was entitled to creative freedom. For the ruling said good news.
The English musician hugs his team as he stands inside a Manhattan federal courtroom after jurors ruled that he “independently” composed his 2014 song.
Outside, he told reporters he was “overjoyed” but “incredibly disappointed that such baseless claims” are even standing up to trial.
The civil suit was filed by the heirs of Gaye’s co-writer Ed Townsend, who alleged that Sheeran’s song’s harmonic progression and rhythmic elements were lifted from the classic made famous by Gaye without permission.
The heirs demanded a share of the profits from Sheeran’s hit tune.
Sheeran told reporters outside court, “If the jury had decided this case another way, we could have said goodbye to songwriters’ creative freedom.”
He said, “When we put so much into our livelihood it is devastating and even disrespectful to be accused of stealing other people’s songs.”
“I am not and will never allow myself to be a piggy bank for anyone.”
– ‘The Songwriter’s Alphabet’ –
Jurors spent some three hours deliberating whether Sheeran’s song and Gaye’s classic were similar enough and whether their common elements were protected by copyright law.
Sheeran, 32, spent the day testifying with guitar in hand, playing a demo for the court to prove the 1-3-4-5 chord progression in question is a basic building block of the pop music he didn’t own. It is possible.
The English musician testified that he writes most of his songs in a day, and noted that he co-wrote “Thinking Out Loud” with singer-songwriter Amy Wadge, a regular creative collaborator.
The pair wrote “Thinking Out Loud” in February 2014 at Sheeran’s home, she said.
A musician produced by the defense told the court that before Gaye had his hit in 1973, several songs used the four-chord sequence.
“These chords are simple building blocks,” Sheeran said on Thursday. “They are a songwriter’s ‘alphabet’, our tool kit.”
“Nobody owns them, or nobody owns the blues the way they’re played.”
Plaintiff Kathryn Townsend Griffin left court and was heckled by reporters smoking a cigarillo, saying only: “God is good all the time, God is good all the time.”
– ‘Purity Prevails’ –
Industry members followed the copyright lawsuit closely because some feared it could chill the creativity of songwriters and open the door to legal challenges elsewhere.
It was the second trial in a year for Sheeran, who last April successfully testified in a London court in a case centered around his song “Shape of You”, saying the lawsuit was emblematic of copyright litigation that Was going too far.
In that case, the judge also ruled in his favor.
Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” shot up the US Billboard Hot 100 chart upon release, and earned Sheeran the Song of the Year award at the 2016 Grammys.
There have been some landmark music copyright cases in recent years, most notably in 2016 when Gaye’s family – who were not part of the New York lawsuit against Sheeran – sued artist Robin Thicke over the similarity between the song “Blurred Lines”. and successfully sued Pharrell Williams. and Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.”
The result surprised many in the industry, including legal experts, given that many of the musical components were considered foundational, and largely existed in the public domain.
Shortly thereafter, an appeals court ruling confirmed a victory for Led Zeppelin on a similar case centered on the classic “Stairway to Heaven”—a boon for songwriters.
The swinging pendulum has frightened some songwriters with the volatility of the views of the jurors, who almost certainly do not have a background in musicology and must rely on expert witnesses for context.
After announcing the verdict, juror Sophia Nees told reporters that it helped all seven members find common ground.
There was “a lot of back and forth” with advocates on both sides, the 23-year-old said.
Joe Bennett, a forensic musicologist at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, told AFP in the wake of the verdict that he was “delighted to learn … sanity prevailed.”
“In music copyright litigation involving one or two bars of music, the plaintiff’s allegation of plagiarism is almost always wrong,” he said.
“Hopefully this sensible decision will discourage other such fake complaints in future.”
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)