Ed Sheeran has injected millions of dollars into the music business via his enormously popular songs and tours — and for copyright-infringement lawsuits. Following a $20 million suit over his song “Photograph” (which was settled out of court) another over “The Rest of Our Life,” which he composed for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill (which Sheeran has asked to have dismissed), here comes another over “Thinking Out Loud.” Owners of that song’s copyright claims that it lifts from Marvin Gaye’s 1972 classic “Let’s Get It On” and are seeking $100 million in damages.
But whereas the last major lawsuit involving a Gaye composition successfully pitted his estate against Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and others — the “Blurred Lines” decision, which resulted in $5.3 million in damages awarded to the family — this one is led by investment banker David Pullman (yes, the man behind Bowie Bonds) and a company called Structured Asset Sales, which has acquired one-third of the song’s shares. It was unclear at press time whether Gaye’s family will sue as well.
And while an earlier lawsuit brought by Townsend’s family was rejected, the company filed a new lawsuit on Thursday alleging that Sheeran and cowriter Amy Wadge and other defendants “copied and exploited, without authorization or credit, the ‘Let’s Get it On’ composition” … copying various elements “including but not limited to the melody, rhythms, harmonies, drums, bass line, backing chorus, tempo, syncopation and looping.”
The suit then goes into copious detail, including musical notation and more, laying out similarities between the two songs. And while the previous lawsuit over the song was rejected, as Thicke and Pharrell discovered to their considerable disadvantage, if such cases go before a jury, all bets are off: Jurors in such cases are rarely musical experts and similarities based on gut — or as the “Blurred Lines” decision put it, “feel” — instead of musical notation can carry the day.