Ed Sheeran Wins in Copyright Trial Over "Thinking Out Loud"

Ed Sheeran secured a legal victory in a case about a copyright infringement lawsuit over his song "Thinking Out Loud" and Marvin Gaye’s "Let's Get It On." What the British artist said about the win.

By Elyse Dupre May 04, 2023 8:42 PMTags
Watch: Ed Sheeran Speaks After Thinking Out Loud Copyright Case Verdict

This verdict is music to Ed Sheeran's ears.

A federal jury in New York found on May 4 that the singer is not liable in a copyright infringement lawsuit that alleged his song "Thinking Out Loud" had "striking similarities" and "overt common elements" to Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On," according to NBC News

After the ruling, Sheeran reflected on his legal victory.

"I am obviously very happy with the outcome of the case, and it looks like I'm not going to have to retire from my day job after all," he said, referencing his previous comment that he would quit playing music if he lost, in a statement obtained by the news outlet. "But, at the same time, I am unbelievably frustrated that baseless claims like this are allowed to go to court at all." 

The four-time Grammy winner released "Thinking Out Loud" in 2014. According to NBC News, the heirs of Ed Townsend—the musician who wrote the 1973 hit "Let's Get It On" with Gaye—filed the lawsuit against Sheeran in 2017 and accused him of violating the Copyright Act.  

Musicians Performing Live on Stage

However, the British recording artist denied the allegations presented in the lawsuit and argued that songwriters use a common set of chords when creating music.

"We have spent the last eight years talking about two songs with dramatically different lyrics, melodies and four chords which are also different and used by songwriters every day, all over the world," Sheeran continued. "These chords are common building blocks which were used to create music long before 'Let's Get It On' was written and will be used to make music long after we are all gone. They are a songwriter's 'alphabet,' our tool kit and should be there for us all to use. No-one owns them or the way they are played, in the same way, nobody owns the color blue."

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

Slamming what he called "unfounded claims like this one," Sheeran spoke about the threat he says these kind of lawsuits can pose to the "creative freedom" of musicians.

"We need to be able to write our original music and engage in independent creation without worrying at every step of the way that such creativity will be wrongly called into question," he added. "Like artists everywhere, [co-writer] Amy [Wadge] and I work hard to independently create songs which are often based around real-life, personal experiences. It is devastating to be accused of stealing other people's songs when we have put so much work into our livelihoods."

The 32-year-old also noted the trial caused him to miss a major family moment.  

"I am just a guy with a guitar who loves writing music for people to enjoy," he explained. "I am not and will never allow myself to be a piggy bank for anyone to shake. Having to be in New York for this trial has meant that I have missed being with my family at my grandmother's funeral in Ireland. I won't get that time back."

After thanking the jury, Wadge (who according to NBC News was not named in the lawsuit) his team and supporters, Sheeran—who also won a separate copyright infringement case over his song "Shape of You" last year—expressed his hope for the future. 

"We need songwriters and the wider musical community to come together to bring back common sense," he concluded in his statement. "These claims need to be stopped so that the creative process can carry on, and we can all just go back to making music. At the same time, we absolutely need trusted individuals, real experts who help support the process of protecting copyright." 

According to NBC News, the plaintiffs declined to make a statement out of the courthouse after the verdict was reached. The news outlet also noted it reached out to attorneys for comment, and E! News has reached out to teams for both parties as well.

(E! and NBC News are both part of the NBCUniversal family).

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