Ed Sheeran won. In a verdict handed down today in a New York courtroom, a jury found that Sheeran, the UK singer-songwriter, did not copy Marvin Gaye’s 1973 hit “Let’s Get It On” with his own 2014 smash “Thinking Out Loud,” the Associated Press reports.
The heirs of songwriter Ed Townsend, who cowrote “Let’s Get It On” with Gaye, brought a lawsuit against Sheeran, claiming that “Thinking Out Loud” was similar enough to “Let’s Get It On” that it violated the song’s copyright. The plaintiffs’ lawyer Ben Crump told jurors that Sheeran sometimes mashed the songs together into a medley at his concerts, which he argued was a “smoking gun” proving that Sheeran stole the song. On the witness stand, Sheeran reportedly grabbed an acoustic guitar and demonstrated how he mashes up songs in concert to “spice it up a bit” for his fans.
Led by attorney Ilene Farkas, Sheeran’s team argued that the songs’ chord progressions were similar but chord progressions are basic building blocks of songwriting and not protected under copyright law. On the stand, Sheeran said he’d quit music if he lost the case. People made a lot of jokes about that comment, rooting for Sheeran’s retirement from music, but music fans arguably benefit from the verdict. Critics of the lawsuit feared that a loss for Sheeran would inspire a flood of spurious lawsuits and ultimately chill creative expression as songwriters feared legal action — a phenomenon that has already taken hold to some extent thanks to the Gaye’s family’s victory in the “Blurred Lines” trial.
Sheeran addressed reporters after the trial outside the courthouse. “I am obviously very happy with the outcome of this case, and it looks like I’m not going to have to retire from my day job after all,” he said. “But at the same time, I am unbelievably frustrated that baseless claims like this are allowed to go to court at all.”