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Ed Sheeran emerges victorious in copyright battle over hit song 'Thinking Out Loud'

Updated: Jun 26, 2023

Ed Sheeran has emerged victorious in a closely watched legal battle over whether his hit song “Thinking Out Loud” infringed on the copyright of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” In a federal trial, Sheeran and his co-writer Amy Wadge were accused of using a similar chord progression to Gaye’s 1973 hit. However, the jury ultimately ruled in favor of Sheeran. The defense successfully argued that the disputed chords were part of a songwriter’s toolkit that had been used in numerous songs before.

The music industry closely followed the case, with many concerned that a ruling against Sheeran could stifle creativity and lead to punitive copyright lawsuits. During the trial, Sheeran and his lawyers argued that similarities between the two songs did not constitute copyright infringement, and cited other popular songs with distinct melodies that could potentially be deemed too similar under the prosecutors’ logic.

The trial also saw prosecutors present a video of Sheeran playing both “Thinking Out Loud” and “Let’s Get It On” in concert, which they argued was a “smoking gun” proving the alleged infringement. Sheeran, however, maintained that similarities between the two songs were due to limited harmonic options in mainstream pop music.

Video Provided by Youtube / Rick Beato

The case had been brought by the heirs of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote “Let’s Get It On” with Marvin Gaye. Townsend’s family sued Sheeran in 2016, shortly after Gaye’s family won a landmark copyright infringement case against the hit song “Blurred Lines.”

Sheeran has faced multiple accusations of copyright infringement in recent years. In 2016, he settled a lawsuit with songwriters Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard, who accused him of copying parts of their song for his hit “Photograph.” Sheeran also prevailed in a plagiarism trial over his smash hit “Shape of You” last year.


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