The case was brought against the pop star in 2016 by Ed Townsend – one of the co-writers on Gaye’s classic 1973 track – who accused Sheeran of copying the song on his 2014 hit.
The accusations alleged that Sheeran and co-writer Amy Wadge copied the rhythm of the 1973 song, as well as an ascending four-chord sequence. The case also referenced “striking similarities” between the two tracks that violate the copyright. Sheeran denied claims he copied Gaye’s song.
Earlier this week, Sheeran reportedly took to the stand in Manhattan to insist he would be “done” with music if found guilty.
The singer-songwriter has now been found not liable for copyright infringement, with jurors ruling that he “independently” created the song. Sheeran hugged his lawyer after the verdict, while Wadge and his wife Cheery Seaborn were reportedly in tears (via The Guardian).
Sheeran told reporters outside the court: “I am obviously very happy with the outcome of the case and it looks like I am not having to retire from my day job after all. But at the same time I’m unbelievably frustrated that baseless claims like this are allowed to go to court at all.”
He also said it was “devastating” to be accused of stealing someone else’s song, describing himself as “just a guy with a guitar who loves writing music for people to enjoy” who will never allow himself to be “a piggybank for anyone to shake”.
The jury reached its decision after three hours, with the judge reportedly sending it into deliberations saying: “Independent creation is a complete defense, no matter how similar that song is.”
Earlier this week, Sheeran played Van Morrison in court to prove he didn’t steal from Gaye.
The musician played his guitar to run through mashups of ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and several other songs by Van Morrison, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers and Blackstreet to contest musicologist Alexander Stewart’s claims about his melodies and intentions.
Last week, it also emerged that a lawyer claimed Sheeran ‘confessed’ to copying Gaye by mashing up the two songs at one of his concerts (via The Associated Press).
“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 [and do that],” Sheeran said last week (April 25), responding to the allegations (via Rolling Stone). “It is my belief that most pop songs are built on building blocks that have been freely available for 100s of years.”
Elsewhere in the trial, laughter reportedly broke out after the court was played an AI version of Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’.
The singer-songwriter also made headlines over the weekend after his wife revealed that he wrote “seven songs in four hours” after learning of her cancer diagnosis.
Sheeran has shared said that his new songs, many of which make up his upcoming album ‘-‘ (Subtract), out tomorrow (May 5), are based on the “unbreakable” bond he formed with Seaborn through her illness.