Ed Sheeran Not Quitting Music Industry After All

A jury has found Ed Sheeran not guilty of stealing from Marvin Gaye's song "Let's Get It On."

By Charlene Badasie | Updated

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Popular English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran has won a copyright infringement lawsuit involving his song “Thinking Out Loud” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” The legal proceedings, which began in 2017, were initiated by the heirs of Ed Townsend, the co-writer of the 1970s classic. However, a Manhattan federal jury found Sheeran did not engage in willful copyright infringement.

Ed Sheeran denied the allegations and testified that if he had copied Gaye’s song, he would be “quite an idiot to stand on stage in front of 25,000 people.” He also proclaimed that he would quit the industry if he lost. “If that happens, I’m done. I’m stopping,” he said. “I find it really insulting to devote my whole life to being a performer and a songwriter and have someone diminish it.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, attorney Ben Crump argued on behalf of the Townsend heirs that Ed Sheeran had performed the songs together, along with video evidence from a concert in Switzerland where he segued between “Let’s Get It On” and “Thinking Out Loud.” Crump asserted that this was “smoking gun” proof that the English musician had stolen from the famous tune.

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In response, Ed Sheeran took the stand and demonstrated how he creates “mash-ups” of songs during concerts to “spice it up a bit” for the attendees. He picked up a guitar behind him several times to illustrate his point. But under cross-examination, he became more guarded, explaining that the case was closely watched by others in the industry.

Ed Sheeran’s attorney, Ilene Farkas, portrayed the case as a threat to creative expression, warning that a verdict against her client would set a dangerous precedent. “Thinking Out Loud” was released in 2014 and won a Grammy for Song of the Year. His lawyers argued that the similarities between the songs were limited to a “common and unprotectable chord progression” used freely by all songwriters.

Speaking outside court, Ed Sheeran said he was very happy to have won the case and that he doesn’t have to “retire from [his] day job after all.” He also expressed his frustration with the lawsuit, saying he found it “unbelievable” that baseless claims like these were allowed to go to court. The singer emphasized that the two songs had different lyrics, melodies, and chord progressions.

They only share a few common building blocks that are used by songwriters all over the world. Ed Sheeran argued that these chord progressions are available to all songwriters and cannot be owned by anyone, much like the color blue. The singer’s victory follows a similar ruling in 2021 when he won a copyright infringement case involving his song “Shape of You.”

Following the verdict, Ed Sheeran released his fifth studio album, titled “-” on May 5. The album, pronounced “Subtract,” is produced and written by the musician in collaboration with Aaron Dessner, a member of the American indie rock band The National. This album is expected to be the final release in Sheeran’s “mathematical” series, which began with his debut album “+” in 2011.

Ed Sheeran describes the record as an acoustic album that explores themes of fear, depression, and anxiety. The album represents his current state of mind and how he needs to express himself at this point in his life. He also explained that he wrote the album without any specific direction, letting the music flow naturally.