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Ed Sheeran Wins In Court & Drops New Album After Saying He’d Quit The Music Biz Forever If He Lost His "Let's Get It On" Copyright Case

After two long weeks (and nearly a decade of back & forth), a major victory for Ed Sheeran in an NYC court yesterday. 

For some background - Back in 2014 Ed Sheeran released "Thinking Out Loud" which led the charts for months & went on to win two Grammys. That same year at a concert he played a mashup of that hit which shifted into Marvin Gaye's 1973 horny classic "Let's Get It On".

That clip fell onto the radar of Kathryn Townsend Griffin, the daughter and only living heir of the late Ed Townsend (the man who wrote "Let's Get It On"), and in 2017 she proceeded to sue Sheeran for copyright infringement to the tune of $100M. She alleged Sheeran copied harmonic progressions, melodic and rhythmic elements of her dad's song. The case was dismissed but the Townsend estate sued him yet again the following year, and so on and so forth until it finally wound up in civil court this April for $5M. 

It's been an interesting trial from everyone in the court giggling when they played a recording of "Let's Get It On", Sheeran bringing his guitar to the witness stand to explain chord progressions to everyone, Kathryn Townsend passing out and needing to be taken away via ambulance, to Sheeran exclaiming he's done with music if he loses this case. 

On Tuesday, during questioning from the plaintiff's legal team, Sheeran argued that many pop songs share similar chord progressions, and said that his decision to do a mash-up of "Thinking Out Loud" and "Let's Get it On" at a 2014 concert was not the "smoking gun" that Crump claimed it was.

 At one point, he was asked what he would do if the court finds "Thinking Out Loud" to be too similar to "Let's Get It On."

"If that happens, I'm done, I'm stopping," Sheeran said. "I find it to be really insulting," he added. "I work really hard to be where I'm at."

Gotta say, I've been at several concerts where the artist/band segues from their own song into another artist's popular song that has a common rythym. The crowd goes nuts, everybody loves it, nobody sues anybody. As Sheeran's team pointed out, there's endless songs that share the similar building blocks & chords. 

In the end, after 3 hours of deliberation, the jury decided he (and writing partner Amy Wadge) were the sole creators of "Thinking Out Loud", and they had not copied from "Let's Get It On". I feel like any other decision would have been nutty, and a slippery legal slope in the creative world at large. (Considering how often I double-blog people here I was especially nervous.)

Anyways, here's Sheeran's statement in full in case you're on the toilet or something. 

It looks like I'm 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. We spent the last 8 years talking about two songs with dramatically different lyrics, melodies and four chords which are also different and used by songwriters every day all over the world. 

These chords are common building blocks, which were used to create music long before ‘Let’s Get It On’ was written and will be used to make music long after we are all gone. They are in a songwriter’s alphabet, our toolkit, and should be there for all of us to use. No one owns them or the way they’re played in the same way no one owns the color blue.

Unfortunately, unfounded claims like this are being fuelled by individuals who are offered as music experts in musical analysis. In this instance, the other side’s musicologist left out words and notes; presented different and simple pictures as melodies and by doing so, created what I think we proved for all to see were misleading comparisons and disinformation to find supposed similarities where none exist, and I think we proved for all to see that they tried to manipulate my and Amy’s song to try and convince the jury that they had a genuine claim. I’m very grateful that the jury saw through those attempts. 

This seems so dangerous to me: both to potential claimants who may be convinced to bring a bogus claim as well as those songwriters facing them. It’s simply wrong. By stopping this practice, we can also properly support genuine music copyright claims so legitimate claims are rightly heard and resolved. If the jury had decided this matter the other way, we might as well say goodbye to the creative freedom of songwriters. We need to be able to write our original music and engage in independent creation without worrying at every step of the way that such creativity will be wrongly called into question. 

Like artists everywhere, Amy and I work hard to independently create songs, which are often based around real-life, personal experience. It’s devastating to be accused of stealing someone else’s song when we’ve put so much work into our livelihoods.

I’m just a guy with a guitar who loves writing music for people to enjoy. I am not and will never allow myself to be a piggy bank for someone to shake. Having to be in New York for this trial has meant that I’ve missed being with my family at my grandmother’s funeral in Ireland and I will never get that time back.

These trials take a significant toll on everyone involved, including Kathryn (Townsend). I want to thank the jury for making the decision that will help protect the creative process of songwriters here in the United States and all around the world. I also want to thank my team who have supported me throughout this difficult process and to all the songwriters, musicians and fans who’ve reached out with messages of support over the last few weeks. Finally, I would like to thank Amy. Neither of us expected that nine years ago from our wonderful writing session we would have to be here defending our integrity. Amy, I feel so lucky to have you in my life. Thank you.

We need songwriters and the wider community to come together and bring back common sense. These claims need to be stopped so the creative process can carry on and we can all go back to making music. At the same time, we absolutely need trusted individuals, real experts who help support the process of protecting copyright. Thank you.

Sucks that he had to deal with this, and miss his grandmother's funeral on top of it all, but sounds like he took one for the team & did a great service to other artists, & honestly happy that he won & can put it behind him now.

In closing, I'd like to share my own personal favorite segue. It's not musical, but I have no doubt it's so original it could never possibly be replicated in any way, even by accident. Have a great Friday and may 1,000 blossoms bloom.

**UPDATE: Sheeran is really rolling with this momentum and dropped a new album today.