The difference between “inspiration” and “ripped off” is razor thin in the music industry—and Gaye’s music has proven that before.
The long-gestating copyright-infringement suit against Ed Sheeran and his 2014 song “Thinking Out Loud” is headed to a jury after a U.S. judge rejected his request to dismiss the case, Reuters reported on Thursday. Marvin Gaye’s 1973 hit “Let’s Get It On” was co-written by Ed Townsend, and Townsend’s estate and heirs have accused Sheeran, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, and Atlantic Records of ripping it off. (Sheeran et al. have denied doing so.)
U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton in Manhattan said he saw similarities between “Thinking Out Loud” and “Let’s Get It On,” including their bass lines, percussion, and “aesthetic appeal,” but a jury would have to decide if the harmonic rhythm of “Let’s Get It On” is too common to be protected. Stanton added that jurors “may be impressed by footage of a Sheeran performance which shows him seamlessly transitioning between [the songs].” The defense has cited the “somber, melancholic tones, addressing long-lasting romantic love” of “Thinking Out Loud” as different from “Let’s Get It On,” which is a “sexual anthem.”
It’s not the only case overseen by Judge Stanton that applies to these two tracks. A separate, $100 million case was launched this past June—two years after the Townsend estate filed the original suit—by Structured Asset Sales, a company that allegedly owns part of Gaye’s song. Structured Asset Sales is owned by David Pullman, the investment banker who invented so-called “Bowie bonds” in 1997, wherein David Bowie sold $55 million worth of bonds backed by royalties from his catalogue.
Likewise, this is not the only copyright-infringement lawsuit that Gaye’s camp has brought. Gaye’s children successfully sued Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams for apparently copying “Got to Give It Up” in their 2013 hit “Blurred Lines.” They were eventually awarded $5.3 million.
Nor is this the first suit that Sheeran has faced. The writers and producer of the TLC song “No Scrubs” received writing credits on “Shape of You”, due to similarities. There was also a suit over infringement on “Photograph”; songwriters for an X Factor winner have claimed that the chorus shares a nearly 70 percent overlap with the chorus of their song “Amazing.” They settled the case in 2017 and are now also listed as songwriters on the track.
Source: Vanity Fair KENZIE BRYANT
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