Last Thursday, a Manhattan jury acquitted Ed Sheeran on charges that he stole “significant elements” of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” for his megahit, “Thinking Out Loud.” Much of the plaintiff’s case seem to rely on the contention that the two songs share similar chord progression.
There are several things you cannot copyright or claim exclusive intellectual property rights over: (1) Song titles. (2) A beat (think Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” and Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”). (3) Chord progressions (and by extension, guitar riffs which, for the most part, are really a form of chord progression).
Chord progressions are foundational to music composition. They are fundamental building blocks of modern music. For someone to claim that they own such a combination of notes is insane.
Earlier today (May 7), the singer appeared on CBS Sunday Morning to discuss his new album ‘–’ and the case.
Of the controversy around the case, and why he felt it necessary to pursue victory on behalf of all songwriters, and to set a future precedent, Sheeran said: “There’s like four chords that get used in pop songs. And if you just think mathematically the likelihood of this song having the same chords as this song—there’s multiple, multiple songs—it’s all the same four chords you are going to get this with every single pop song from now on.
“Unless it just stops, which I don’t think it does because it’s a big money business to take things to court. But you can only get caught out if you’ve done something wrong, and I have not done something wrong. I used four chords that are very common chords to use.”
Doane also asked Sheeran how much he cares about what is written about his music. “I used to care a lot,” Sheeran said, “because I spent my whole life trying to become successful.” He continued: “But you’re not always going to be everything to everyone. Like I’ve never really been a critical darling, but I don’t know, I think it’s more challenging to write pop music than any other kind of music.”
The “Thinking Out Loud” lawsuit was first filed in 2016 by the family of Ed Townsend, Marvin Gaye’s co-writer on “Let’s Get It On,” shortly after the judgement in the Gaye estate’s suit against Pharrell and Robin Thicke over “Blurred Lines.” The plaintiffs alleged Sheeran plagiarized elements of “Let’s Get It On” for “Thinking Out Loud.” The trial date was delayed in 2019 when a Manhattan district judge in order to wait for results in a similar copyright case involving Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” Led Zeppelin ultimately won their case, in which the judge ruled that plaintiffs must prove that a work is “virtually identical” to their own in order to prove infringement.
People were delighted and one fan even yelled, “I love you!” at the singer. People in their balconies also enjoyed the track.
Sheeran’s new album also includes a song called Dusty which is dedicated to his eldest daughter Lyra Antarctica, 2 ½.
He recalled how he would pay late night visits to a mural dedicated to his late friend Jamal and would “go to bed and cry myself to sleep and wake up at 6 with this ball of energy — this beautiful girl that’s jumping on me and being like, ‘Let’s listen to music and eat porridge!'”
The Shape of You hitmaker also revealed that their music preferences span from the heavy metal band Black Sabbath to the mellow tunes of Norah Jones.
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