Ed Sheeran wins plagiarism copyright court case with Marvin Gaye's estate

Ed Sheeran has won a plagiarism copyright court case amid claims he copied the 1973 song 'Let's Get It On' by Marvin Gaye in his 2014 ballad 'Thinking Out Loud.'

The court case, which took place in New York, saw the 'Shape Of You' singer stand accused by the heirs of Ed Townsend, who wrote 'Let's Get It On' with Gaye.

After the trial's verdict, Sheeran released a statement saying he was "frustrated" it had even gone to court.

"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 — but, at the same time, I am unbelievably frustrated that baseless claims like this are allowed to go to court at all," he said.

"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. 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 colour blue.

"Unfortunately, unfounded claims like this one are being fuelled by individuals who are offered as experts in musical analysis. In this instance, the other side's musicologist left out words and notes, presented simple (and different) pitches as melody, creating misleading comparisons and disinformation to find supposed similarities where none exist.

"They tried to manipulate my and Amy's song to try to convince the jury that they had a genuine claim, and I am very grateful that the jury saw through those attempts. This seems so dangerous to me, both for potential claimants who may be convinced to bring a bogus claim, as well as those songwriters facing them. It is simply wrong. By stopping this practice, we can also properly support genuine music copyright claims so that legitimate claims are rightly heard and resolved.

"If the jury had decided this matter the other way, we might as well say goodbye to the creative freedom of songwriters. 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.

"Like artists everywhere, Amy 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.

"I am just a guy with a guitar who loves writing music for people to enjoy. 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," his statement concluded.

Sheeran took to the witness stand in Manhattan Federal Court during the trial and delivered fiery testimony where he insinuated he would quit music if he'd lost the case.

He also said stated both pieces of music were made from "building blocks" that had been around for "hundreds of years".

"If I'd done what you're accusing me of doing, I'd be an idiot to stand on stage in front of 20,000 people," Sheeran told the court during testimony, People magazine reported at the time.

"It is my belief that most pop songs are built on building blocks that have been freely available for hundreds of years."

It's not the first time he's been accused of copyright theft - the 'Let's Get It On' case is his second copyright lawsuit in two years. 

Sheeran has now been sued three times with claims he copied another song to create one of his.

In April 2022, the singer said baseless copyright claims were damaging the music industry after he won a case at the High Court in London over claims his 2017 hit 'Shape Of You' had been lifted from another artist.

Sheeran had previously been involved in a legal battle with grime artist Sami Chokri, who performs as Sami Switch, and music producer Ross O'Donoghue, who had argued the hook from 'Shape of You' had been copied from their 2015 song 'Oh Why'.

In March 2023 Sheeran revealed the personal toll the court case had taken on him, saying the previous month was the worst of his entire life due to the death of his best pal, the copyright lawsuit, and his wife Cherry Seaborn being diagnosed with a tumour during pregnancy.