A Court Date Has Been Set for The Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Against Ed Sheeran

A trial date has been set for Ed Sheeran to battle it out over copyright infringement for the third time in as many years. The pop superstar is currently embroiled in a copyright battle with Ed Townsend’s heirs over his song “Thinking Out Loud.” The estate of Townsend, who is credited with co-writing several of Marvin Gaye’s biggest hits, argue that “Thinking Out Loud” is a blatant copy of the romantic powerhouse hit “Let’s Get It On.” Set for a September 11, 2019 court date, Sheeran’s team will need to prove the two songs are not similar enough to warrant copyright infringement, according to The Huffington Post.

Sheeran has found himself in trouble with copyright laws before

While the current lawsuit levied against the “Shape of You” singer is the largest the UK-born artist has faced, it isn’t the first time he’s found himself on the wrong side of copyright infringement laws. According to Vanity Fair, Sheeran was sued by Martin Harrington, Thomas Leonard, and HaloSongs, Inc. for similarities between Sheeran’s hit “Photograph” and Matt Cardle’s “Amazing.” Harrington, Leonard and HaloSongs, Inc. are credited with the composition of the song.

Ed Sheeran performs
Ed Sheeran (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)

The lawsuit alleged that the two songs share 39 identical notes within the chorus. The chorus of “Photograph” accounts for 41% of the tune. The lawsuit, which was seeking $20 million in damages and an injunction on the sale and public performance of “Photograph” was settled out of court. Details of the settlement were not made public, according to The Telegraph.

Sheeran was also named in a lawsuit aimed at Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s “The Rest of Our Lives.” According to Reuters, a copyright infringement lawsuit alleged the song was a blatant copy of “When I Found You” a song recorded and distributed by Australian country star, Jasmine Rae. Sheeran co-wrote “The Rest of Our Lives.” The matter was settled in 2018.

Marvin Gaye’s heirs are litigious

The estate of Marvin Gaye and those connected to the icon’s music are a rather litigious bunch. Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke were sued by Gaye’s estate over “Blurred Lines.” The lawsuit alleged the 2013 hit too closely mimicked Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up.”

The pair settled with the estate for a reported $5 million. Thicke and Williams agreed to also pay the estate 50% of all future royalties, according to The Boston Globe. While the case may be settled, some music insiders argued that “Blurred Lines” was more a homage to the late singer than a blatant rip-off.

Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye (Photo by Rob Verhorst/Redferns)

Some industry insiders contend that Gaye’s estate is merely looking to bleed money out of current day artists. After all, Gaye completely changed the music game and has profoundly influenced artists for decades. According to experts, some similarities are inevitable during the creative process, especially for artists who were influenced by the singer.

Gaye was famously killed by his father just one day before his 45th birthday. The 1984 slaying rocked the music world and highlighted Gaye’s struggle with depression, financial troubles, and drug addiction, according to The History Channel. The “Sexual Healing” singer had three children.

Are the songs the same?

While a musicologist will weigh in on whether or not the songs are similar enough to qualify for copyright laws during the trail, Sheeran didn’t help his case by performing a mashup of “Thinking Out Loud” and “Let’s Get It On.” The bold move may be the motivating factor behind the lawsuit.

The performance in 2014, readily available on YouTube highlights some of the similarities between the two songs. But according to the lawsuit it all comes down to the melodies being strikingly similar. The estate of Ed Townsend, the man credit with writing the music for “Let’s Get It On,” argues that Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” directly copied the melodies and the drum line from the 1973 hit, according to The Washington Post.

A judge and a series of experts will be called in to discuss the musical composition of the two songs if the lawsuit goes to trial. It is possible, however, that Sheeran’s camp will choose to settle the matter out of court.