Ed Sheeran took the stand and testified against allegations that he took part of the melody of the Marvin Gaye classic “Let’s Get it On” when he created his hit, “Thinking Out Loud”.
The civil suit claims Sheeran’s song has “striking similarities” to the 1973 hit and shares “overt common elements” with the song that is protected by copyright.
Sheeran is accused by the heirs of Ed Townsend, co-writer of “Let’s Get It On”. Townsend’s daughter Kathryn Townsend Griffin, sister Helen McDonald and the estate of his former wife, Cherrigale Townsend, are the listed plaintiffs in the case.
Ben Crump, a lawyer representing the family of the co-writer for Gaye’s classic hit, said in his opening statement that Sheeran played his ballad and “Let’s Get it On” back-to-back in a medley during a concert, and called the moment a “smoking gun”. The 30-second clip of the mash-up was deemed as “irrelevant and prejudicial” by Sheeran’s attorneys.
Sheeran argued that he has done this with other songs and said if he really stole from “Let’s Get it On”, it would be unwise to highlight it this way.
“I mash up songs at lots of gigs. Many songs have similar chords. You can go from ‘Let It Be’ to “No Woman No Cry’ and switch back. And quite frankly, if I’d done what you’re accusing me of doing, I’d be quite an idiot to stand on a stage in front of 20,000 people and do that,” said Sheeran.
Townsend’s daughter testified prior to Sheeran saying she was not a “copyright troll” suggesting that attempts at a settlement had been rebuffed.
“I want you to know that it did not have to come to this,” Griffin said. “But I had to protect my father’s legacy.”
Sheeran’s team declined to cross-examine the singer and said they would ask him their own questions as they present their case at a later time.
There have been several copyright cases in recent years. Taylor Swift faced a similar case in 2017 over her hit “Shake it Off; Led Zeppelin was sued in 2014 over their iconic song “Stairway to Heaven” by the former lead guitarist of the 1960s band Spirit. The 2020 appeals court ruled in favor of Led Zeppelin.
Sheeran faced a previous battle in 2022 with his song “Shape of You” and the judge ruled in Sheeran’s favor. Sheeran also faced a legal battle in 2016 over his single “Photograph”, which was settled out of court.
Following the 2022 case, Sheeran posted a video on Instagram voicing his concerns over the recent music copyright cases.
“It’s really damaging to the songwriting industry. There’s only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music. Coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 songs are being released every day on Spotify. That’s 22 million songs a year, and there’s only 12 notes that are available,” Sheeran said. “I’m not an entity. I’m not a corporation. I’m a human being. I’m a father. I’m a husband. I’m a son. Lawsuits are not a pleasant experience.”
Sheeran is expected to testify once more as the trial proceeds.