Ed Sheeran Wins Another “Thinking Out Loud” Copyright Lawsuit
Less than two weeks after a federal jury ruled that Ed Sheeran’s 2014 single “Thinking Out Loud” did not plagiarize elements of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” the English musician has beaten a second lawsuit involving the two songs. According to court documents obtained by Pitchfork, a New York federal judge, Louis L. Stanton, dismissed a complaint originally filed against Sheeran and others in 2018 by Structured Asset Sales, LLC (SAS), whose CEO, David Pullman, owns one-third of the copyright to Ed Townsend’s catalog. Townsend co-wrote “Let’s Get It On” with Marvin Gaye, making Pullman partial owner of its copyright. Townsend’s family was behind the other major lawsuit against Sheeran.
In the complaint, viewed by Pitchfork, SAS alleged that “Thinking Out Loud” specifically infringed upon on the copyright of the sheet music for “Let’s Get It On.” The lawsuit also outlined multiple points of alleged plagiarism, including comparisons of the songs’ chord progressions, time signatures, bass lines, and more. At one point, SAS stated that Sheeran “experienced a sharp and sudden rise as an international music star in less than eighteen (18) months as a direct result of the commercial success of the release of “‘Thinking Out Loud.’”
Judge Stanton reached a similar conclusion to the jury who awarded Sheeran his trial victory earlier this month, dismissing the case with prejudice. “It is an unassailable reality that the chord progression and harmonic rhythm in ‘Let’s Get It On’ are so commonplace, in isolation and in combination, that to protect their combination would give ‘Let’s Get It On’ an impermissible monopoly over a basic musical building block,” Stanton wrote in the filing.
Stanton added that the chord progression for “Let’s Get It On” had been used “at least twenty-nine times” before Gaye and Townsend wrote the hit, and appeared in “another twenty-three songs” before “Thinking Out Loud” emerged.
“There is no genuine issue of material fact as to whether defendants infringed the protected elements of ‘Let’s Get It On,” Stanton wrote. “The answer is that they did not.”
Last year, Stanton had denied Sheeran’s bid for dismissal of SAS’ lawsuit. When reached today by Pitchfork, David Pullman said over the phone that it’s “unusual for a judge to reconsider his own decision.”
As The Guardian notes, Sheeran is facing another pending lawsuit from SAS that compares the finished recordings of “Thinking Out Loud” and “Let’s Get It On.”