Ed Sheeran Wins "Thinking Out Loud" Copyright Trial

·3-min read
British singer Ed Sheeran arrives for the premiere of the Disney+ music docu-series
British singer Ed Sheeran arrives for the premiere of the Disney+ music docu-series

Ed Sheeran is about to release his latest album, "Subtract", and his searingly honest Disney+ documentary called "Ed Sheeran: The Sum Of It All" premiered on 3 May - and now has one more thing to celebrate. On 4 May, Sheeran won a copyright infringement lawsuit based on accusations that he had copied elements of the 1973 Marvin Gaye hit, "Let's Get It On," in his 2015 hit, "Thinking Out Loud," without permission.

Sheeran was being sued by the heirs of Ed Townsend, the co-writer who penned the hit, and while the lawsuit was filed back in 2017, it took six years for it to reach a Manhattan federal court. Before his win, Sheeran - who vehemently denied the accusations - had even threatened to give up his music career if he lost the copyright trial. The Daily Mail reported that, when his attorney questioned him on the stand about the toll the trial was taking on 2 May, Sheeran replied: "If that happens, I'm done, I'm stopping." He added, "I find it really insulting to devote my whole life to being a performer and a songwriter and have someone diminish it."

Related: Ed Sheeran to Give a "Searingly Honest View" Into His Personal Life and Career in New Documentary

This isn't the first time Sheeran has been taken to court over copyright issues. In 2022, he was sued by Sami Chokri and Ross O'Donoghue who accused Sheeran of copying elements of their song, "Oh Why", in the 2017 chart-topper, "Shape Of You". The judge ruled in Sheeran's favour, stating that Sheeran had "neither deliberately nor subconsciously" copied from the song, as per The Guardian.

The dad-of-two has spoken about the impact lawsuits have had on his life, at a time when he was struggling to cope mentally. "Within the space of a month, my pregnant wife got told she had a tumour, with no route for treatment until after the birth. My best friend Jamal, a brother to me, died suddenly, and I found myself in court defending my integrity and career as a songwriter," Sheeran wrote on Instagram about writing his latest album.

What Is the Ed Sheeran Lawsuit?

Sheeran is being sued by the heirs of Ed Townsend, writer of Marvin Gaye's hit song, "Let's Get It On". They are accusing him of copying "harmonic progressions" and "melodic and rhythmic elements". Essentially, the court has to decide whether the building blocks of the song have been duplicated on Sheeran's ballad.

Sheeran denies the claims resolutely and has argued that the song uses common constructions which can be found in many pop songs. To illustrate his point, Sheeran played the basic chord progression of "Thinking Out Loud" while on the witness stand on 27 April. The plaintiff's lawyer then unveiled what was described as a "smoking gun" moment, by showing a video of Sheeran performing a mashup of the two songs at a concert in Zurich to highlight the similarities.

"I mash up songs at lots of gigs. Many songs have similar chords. You can go from "Let It Be" to "No Woman No Cry" and switch back," Sheeran said in court, via The Daily Mail. "And quite frankly, if I'd done what you're accusing me of doing, I'd be quite an idiot to stand on a stage in front of 20,000 people and do that."