A Round-Up of the Legal Trouble Ed Sheeran’s Songs Have Endured

Singer Ed Sheeran

Singer Ed Sheeran | Niklas Halle’n/AFP/Getty Images

Ed Sheeran’s Grammy-winning single “Thinking Out Loud” is a fan-favorite …. however, it’s turning out to be an industry nightmare. The X Platinum single is at the center of not one but two lawsuits due to its similarity to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”

The first lawsuit

Edward Townsend, Jr., a co-writer on “Let’s Get It On,” first sued Sheeran in 2016 due to the apparent similarity. Townsend Jr.’s family claimed “the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic: compositions of Thinking are substantially and/or strikingly similar to the drum composition of Let’s.”

“Thinking” was the first song ever to hit 500 million Spotify streams. It was released by Atlantic Records, published by Sony/ATV, and credited to both Sheeran and writer Amy Wadge.

And while Sheeran has always denied the claims, he recognizes the compositional similarities as well, evident by the fact he’s transitioned from “Thinking Out Loud” to “Let’s Get It On” in concert.

The second lawsuit

Structured Aset Sales (SAS), a company with a stake in Townsend himself, filed the second lawsuit today in a federal New York court. SAS tried (and failed) to join the Townsend lawsuit in early June 2018 and went on to prepare their own.

SAS filed a lawsuit against Sheeran, Padge, his label (Atlantic Records), and the label’s parent company Warner Music Group (WMG). They also included publisher Sony/ATV and WMG distributor Asylum Records in the suit.

SAS is involved because they purchased a share of Townsend’s song catalog (including “Let’s Get It On”) from his son after Edward Townsend, Jr.’s death in 2003. The company is seeking $100 million in damages for the portion of the song it owns, also known as the portion of the royalties Edward’s son Clef inherited.

Ed Sheeran performs

Ed Sheeran performs on June 25, 2017. | Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Ed Sheeran was sued before for ‘The Rest of Our Life’ and ‘Photograph

As Sheeran rose to prominence, so did his music. As his albums skyrocketed to the top of the charts, nearly everyone had heard them — especially songwriters who believed it to be too close to their work. Sean Carey and Beau Golden filed a lawsuit against Sheeran based on the melody from their song “When I Found You,” sung by Jasmin Rae. They claimed it was too similar to the song “The Rest of Our Life,” which Sheeran wrote for Faith Hill and Tim McGraw to record together, which Sheeran denied in court documents.

Shortly after the initial 2016 “Thinking Out Loud” lawsuit, two other musicians filed a suit against Sheeran’s 2014 single Photograph. They claimed the composition was the same as their song “Amazing,” performed by the 2012 X Factor winner Matt Cardle. Cardle was quick to remind fans he himself was a Sheeran fan and the lawsuit was not his. Sheeran notably settled that claim.

And this isn’t the first lawsuit on behalf of a Marvin Gaye song

The two songwriters who sued Sheeran for “Photograph” were represented by the same lawyer who successfully sued Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams for copyright infringement in 2015. The song in question? Their hit 2015 single “Blurred Lines,” which prosecutors accused of copying Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.”

Thicke and Pharrell lost and ended up settling for $5.3 million USD. The pair appealed and were denied but garnered a lot of support from fellow musicians. In the wake of Sheeran’s ongoing legal battles, Thicke tweeted at the singer to give him a call.


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