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Music Industry

Ed Sheeran WINS the copyright infringement suit brought against him by the estate of Marvin Gaye.

Good. Justice has been served.

In case you weren’t aware, part of the same party who successful sued Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams over “Blurred Lines” sounding too much like Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” tried the same trick against Ed Sheeran, pitting “Thinking of You” against Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” The contention was that “substantial elements” of “Let’s Get It On” were purloined for the Sheeran hit.

Today a jury disagreed.

After a two-week trial in Manhattan, the jury retired to deliberate. After just three hours, it ruled that Sheeran did NOT infringe on any copyright. This puts an end to litigation that was first filed in 2016.

Part of Sheeran’s defense was his lawyers point out the similarities between “Let’s Get It On” (1973) and “Georgy Girl,” a 1967 song by The Seekers. The point was to prove that all the songs share a common chord progression.

And those songs aren’t alone. A musicologist pointed out the same chord progression in “Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance)” by The Contours (1962) and The Temptations’ “Since I Lost My Baby” (1966).

To reiterate: Chord progressions are among the foundational components of songwriting. Therefore, you cannot copyright a chord progression.

This is a very, very, very important decision because it sets a precedent for anyone who might want to sue for copyright infringement passed on a chord progression. MBW quotes forensic musicologist Joe Bennett (how’s that for a gig?): “The world I want to live in is one where nobody sues anyone for a one- or two-bar melodic or harmonic similarity because those similarities can so easily occur through coincidence.”

Amen. Good.

Sheeran isn’t out of the woods quite yet. David Pullman, who bought a piece of the catalogue of Ed Townshend, the co-writer of “Let’s Get It On” (his family brought this last suit), also contends that “Thinking Out Loud” did something bad. That case is currently on hold.

More at CNN.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38420 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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