The ruling came yesterday (September 29) from Judge Louis Stanton, a senior district judge for the Southern District of New York. Per Billboard, the case will determine whether Ed Sheeran’s hit single ‘Thinking Out Loud’ is in breach of copyright due to its similarities with Gaye’s 1973 single ‘Let’s Get It On’.
The suit came from Structured Asset Sales, a company that owns a stake in the copyrights of the estate of Ed Townsend – a co-writer on ‘Let’s Get It On’. It was originally filed back in 2016, with a decision regarding jury involvement coming in 2019.
Despite Sheeran’s lawyers arguing that the elements from ‘Let’s Get It On’ perceived to be present in ‘Thinking Out Loud’ are not substantial enough to warrant a copyright breach, Judge Stanton has stated that determining such a thing is not as simple as that.
“There is no bright-line rule that the combination of two unprotectable elements is insufficiently numerous to constitute an original work,” said Stanton. “A work may be copyrightable even though it is entirely a compilation of unprotectable elements.”
The news that Sheeran must face court again comes just months after a case revolving around his song ‘Shape Of You’ was determined in his favour. In that suit, Sheeran and his two ‘Shape Of You’ co-writers – Johnny McDaid and Steve McCutcheon – were accused of plagiarising part of ‘Oh Why’, a song by Sami Switch.
“You can get a judgement or you can have a settlement and [when] you know that you’re in the right, then you can’t settle just out of principle,” said Sheeran in an interview with Newsnight after the verdict. “Our royalties were frozen, and we were given two options… we chose the option that was integral to us.”
In 2017, Sheeran was also part of a copyright lawsuit regarding the songwriting of his single ‘Photograph’. It was settled that April for an undisclosed amount, which Sheeran later admitted to feeling “dirty” about because it “opened the floodgates” for others to attempt suing him.
A court date is yet to be set for the new suit, but it will take place in a Manhattan federal courthouse.