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Ed Sheeran will face jury trial in “Let’s Get It On” plagiarism lawsuit

Structured Asset Sales, a company with an ownership stake in Gaye’s 1973 hit, launched the lawsuit against Sheeran in 2018.

September 30, 2022
Ed Sheeran will face jury trial in “Let’s Get It On” plagiarism lawsuit Ed Sheeran. Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100  

A Manhattan federal judge has ruled that Ed Sheeran must face a jury trial in a 2018 plagiarism lawsuit, Billboard reports. The suit alleges that the English singer plagiarized portions of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" for the song "Thinking Out Loud." Sheeran's song peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2014 and remained on the chart for 51 weeks.

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The lawsuit was launched by Structured Asset Sales, a company with a one-third ownership stake in the copyrights of Ed Townsend, a co-writer of Gaye's 1973 song (Townsend's heirs have reportedly filed a separate plagiarism lawsuit against Sheeran). Sheeran is accused of lifting a chord progression and harmonic rhythm from Gaye's track – his attorneys have said that the contested elements appear too frequently in other songs for them to be the property of Structured Asset Sales.

In his ruling on Thursday, Judge Stanton said the disagreement would have to be sorted out in front of a jury. He wrote in his ruling: “There is no bright-line rule that the combination of two unprotectable elements is insufficiently numerous to constitute an original work. A work may be copyrightable even though it is entirely a compilation of unprotectable elements.” No court date has been set.

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In April of this year, Sheeran successfully defeated a similar lawsuit in a U.K. court. A musician named Sami Chokri accused Sheeran of plagiarizing his song "Oh I" in the creation of his 2015 hit "Shape Of You." The song's co-writer John McDaid and producer Steven McCutcheon were also named in the suit.

Judge Antony Zacaroli ruled that Sheeran had "neither deliberately nor subconsciously copied" Chokri's song; soon after the ruling, Sheeran issued a statement calling the suit "baseless." He wrote: "Our message to songwriters everywhere is: Please support each other. Be kind to one another. Let’s continue to cultivate a spirit of community and creativity."

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Ed Sheeran will face jury trial in “Let’s Get It On” plagiarism lawsuit