Folk rock star Ed Sheeran is facing copyright infringement charges for his 2014 hit “Thinking Out Loud.” An heir of Marvin Gaye’s co-writer Ed Townsend, Kathryn Townsend Griffin, believes the singer plagiarized Gaye’s 1973 hit “Let’s Get It On.” Sheeran attempted to have the lawsuit dropped, but was rejected by a judge on Wednesday. A U.S. jury is set to decide whether or not the track is plagiarized, Spin reported.
A company that partially owns Townsend’s estate, Structured Asset Sales, also sued Sheeran for the alleged copyright infringement.
The judge who called for the trial, Louis Stanton of New York, wrote that there are “substantial similarities between several of the two works’ musical elements.”
However, Stanton also noted in his decision that Sheeran argued for the difference in his song’s “total concept and feel,” and a jury may see either side.
“Defendants contend that the total concept and feel of the two works is different because TOL is characterized by somber, melancholic tones, addressing long-lasting romantic love whereas the LGO recording is a sexual anthem that radiates positives emotions and encourages the listener to ‘get it on,'” the decision read.
“Even without considering the bass-line and drum parts, which are not present in the LGO deposit copy, the question whether TOL infringes on LGO should be determined by trial rather than summarily,” Stanton added, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
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As evidence of the similarities between the two tracks, a video of Sheeran performing “Thinking Out Loud,” seamlessly mashing it up with “Let’s Get It On,” will be presented to the jury.
Many fans of the tracks are weighing in on the case, both for and against Sheeran. While some Twitter users argue that one cannot trademark “aesthetics,” as Stanton referred to it, others are betting that Gaye’s estate will succeed given the results of previous suits.
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Several people have pointed out, in favor of Sheeran, that the track simply uses similar chords — and there are only so many to choose from.
“There are only 12 major chords songwriters can use. There will always be similarities. Countless blues songs sound alike. Same with country songs. This is quite a stretch,” one person wrote.
Another added that the court has already ruled that chord progressions cannot be “owned” by any one artist.
In March, Gaye’s estate went up against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams for infringing on Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” on their 2013 track “Blurred Lines.” Gaye’s family won, and were awarded $5 million.
Sheeran also recently settled a lawsuit involving his track “Photograph.”