Ed Sheeran Sued for Copyright Infringement Over ‘Photograph’

Ed Sheeran
GHNASSIA/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

Ed Sheeran has been slapped with a major lawsuit over his hit “Photograph,” with the plantiffs claiming that the song is a “verbatim, note-for-note copying” of their 2009 song “Amazing,” which was released as a single by 2010’s “X-Factor” winner Matt Cardle.

Songwriters Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard, who have written tracks for Kylie Minogue and Spice Girl Emma Bunton, and their publishing company HaloSongs, are suing Sheeran for $20 million. The lawsuit was filed by Richard Busch, who served as lawyer on behalf of the Marvin Gaye family on the high-profile “Blurred Lines” copyright case.

The “Blurred Lines” case was settled last year for $5.3 million.

“My clients are professional songwriters,” said Busch. “Their work is their life, and I am honored that they have trusted me with this very important case.”

The chorus in “Photograph” and “Amazing” share about 70% of notes, alleges the suit. The lawsuit makes the case that both the original composition by Harrington and Leonard and the recorded version by Cardle are too similar to “Photograph.”

“The songs’ similarities reach the very essence of the work,” states the complaint. “The similarities go beyond substantial, which is itself sufficient to establish copyright infringement, and are in fact striking. The similarity of words, vocal style, vocal melody, melody and rhythm are clear indicators, among other things, that ‘Photograph’ copies ‘Amazing.'”

Sheeran, along with Johnny McDaid, Sony/ATV Songs, Warner Music and Polar Patrol Music Publishing are all named as defendants in the lawsuit. According to the complaint Sheeran’s song “is the most valuable of all of the assets of Polar Patrol, and increased the price of the sale. The profits of Defendants that Plaintiffs are entitled to recover thus include the portion of Polar Patrol’s sale price that may be attributable to the inclusion of the infringing ‘Photograph’ composition.”

The plaintiffs are also seeking an injunction or running royalty and statutory damages. “Photograph” was recently licensed for the “Me Before You” soundtrack.

Listen to both songs below.

Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSDgHBxUbVQ

Matt Cardle’s “Amazing”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWtP_1lyghM

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    1. DLM says:

      The songs sound similar, as do many songs. Yet, I think/hope, a musicologist’s analysis will find they aren’t similar enough for Sheeran’s tune to be considered a copy. The phrasing of the vocal lines is similar, yes, but the instrumentation is different – different guitar lines and phrasing; different percussion; different lyrics. If Harrington and Leonard win on this one, it could lay ground my many other copyright infringement cases, especially in those genres in which its common for songs to have a certain kind of sound.

    2. mdw1013 says:

      Both of these songs also sound like many others, because pop music is so harmonically dull and uninteresting that all the tunes wind up sounding a little like each other, even though this case is pretty obvious. Music written by people who only have the most basic, pedestrian understanding of the possibilities of what music can do.

    3. Kendall says:

      However, alot of songs around the same. I don’t think its worth 20 million.

    4. resistible says:

      The only fair thing to do is to destroy all copies of both songs.

      • Sarah says:

        Oh, but what a loss of art. Both songs a beautiful. It’s a hard one that needs the wisdom of Solomon. I hear the similarities but I adore both songs. I couldn’t make a decision on this. I feel for all parties concerned.

    5. zerograv1 says:

      There are literally hundreds of songs with a similar structure to the plaintiffs. This is an opportunistic lawsuit and should be thrown out of court

    6. Bruce says:

      It is such a simple tune. The part that is similar is noticeable. Enough of a difference in concept and context that I truly wonder why they couldn’t come to an amicable agreement rather than get lawyers and courts involved. Both are meaningful songs and result in a peaceful feeling. Guess the world today isn’t up to those standards. One thing is clear is that there is no intentional copying involved here. Such a simple tune. Could happen to anyone. Both songs performed very well and both songs have their place in the music world. I happen to like Ed’s better as I can relate to it, but others will like Matt’s performance better because their experiences will relate to those particular words. Such a simple tune, such a simple answer. C’mon guys, live up to the standards set in these two songs and work it out peacefully amongst yourselves without letting greed kill yet another moment of humanity. :(

    7. Bill says:

      Sheeran had best get out the checkbook.

    8. turkworks says:

      Dang, they have a good case.

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