Ed Sheeran and Marvin Gaye – Coincidence or Copying?

Written by Charlotte Owens | April 26, 2023


Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran is set to face a copyright trial again – this time over allegations that his hit song “Thinking Out Loud” copies significant elements of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”

The trial, which is scheduled to take place in New York in November, centres around whether Sheeran’s song copied the melody, harmony, and other musical elements of Gaye’s 1973 classic tune.

The lawsuit was originally filed in 2016 by the estate of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote “Let’s Get It On” with Gaye. Townsend’s estate claims that Sheeran lifted the melody, harmony, and rhythmic compositions of “Let’s Get It On” for “Thinking Out Loud,” which became and continued to be a huge hit for Sheeran since its release in 2014.

Sheeran has denied the allegations and has argued that any similarities between the two songs are purely coincidental.

This of course isn’t the first time that Sheeran has been accused of copyright infringement. In 2017, he settled a legal claim over his hit song “Photograph”, which was alleged to have been copied from a song called “Amazing” by Matt Cardle.

What does this mean going forward?

The outcome of this trial could have significant implications for the music industry, particularly in terms of how copyright law is applied to musical compositions and serves as a reminder of the ongoing legal battles within the music industry over copyright infringement.

In the UK, music copyright is generally protected by law, and infringement can be determined through a comparison of the original work and the alleged infringing work, taking into account the overall similarity of the two compositions, the amount taken, and the level of originality.

Such cases often require an in-depth analysis to determine whether the similarity between two songs is coincidental or amounts to a violation of copyright law. Regardless of the outcome of the Sheeran trial, this case will likely continue to fuel discussions and debates about the extent and limits of music copyright protection.

Our specialist lawyers here at Briffa are here to help with any issues concerning intellectual property and music, including contracts, disputes or simply an introductory chat to determine what the best route is for you. Please do not hesitate to contact us at info@briffa.com or on 0207 096 2779 for an initial free consultation.

Written by Charlotte Owens – solicitor

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