Ed Sheeran vs Marvin Gaye: Thinking Out Loud copyright case explained - did star ‘steal’ Let’s Get It On ideas

Ed Sheeran previously won a copyright challenge in a London court over his song ‘Shape of You’

It’s been a favourite first dance song at weddings across the UK since its release in 2014, but Ed Sheeran’s hit ‘Thinking Out Loud’ is facing a court challenge over allegations the singer ‘stole’ elements of Marvin Gaye’s tune ‘Let’s Get It On’.

In a US court case that’s set to be reminiscent of the superstar’s legal battle with London artist Sami Chokri earlier in 2022 - a case Sheeran won - he will have to prove key parts of his track do not infringe the copyright of the 1973 track.

The latest court case comes as the Suffolk-based artist is in the middle of his Mathematics world tour. He has also recently popped up for a surprise set in Ibiza and released new single ‘Celestial’ in collaboration with gaming franchise Pokémon.

So, what exactly is the latest Ed Sheeran court case set to contest - and what has he said? Here’s everything you need to know.

Ed Sheeran faces a copyright infringement claim relating to his 2014 hit ‘Thinking Out Loud’ (image: Getty Images)

What is the Ed Sheeran copyright case about?

Ed Sheeran’s latest legal challenge over copyright infringement concerns perceived similarities between his track ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and Marvin Gaye’s hit ‘Let’s Get It On’.

Originally started in 2018, the owners of the Marvin Gaye track - investment banker David Pullman and a firm called Structured Asset Sales (SAS) - allege that Sheeran and his co-writer Amy Wadge “copied and exploited, without authorisation or credit” parts of Gaye’s song.

Marvin Gaye was shot dead by his father in 1984 (image: Getty Images)

This includes, but is not limited to, the following elements of ‘Let’s Get It On’:

  • Melody
  • Rhythms
  • Harmonies
  • Drums
  • Bass line
  • Backing chorus
  • Tempo
  • Syncopation
  • Looping

Pullman and SAS - who own the estate of the song’s co-writer Ed Townsend - want $100 million (£90 million) in damages from Sheeran. The case has nothing to do with the family of Marvin Gaye, who died in 1984 aged 44 after being shot by his father in a domestic altercation.

It is not the first time a Marvin Gaye song has been in court as a result of copyright infringement claims. Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams hit ‘Blurred Lines’ was deemed to have copied 1977 hit ‘Got To Give it Up’ in 2015, with Marvin Gaye’s estate getting a multimillion pound payout and half of all future royalties.

Why is Ed Sheeran copyright case going to court?

Ed Sheeran had sought to dismiss the lawsuit. The star’s lawyers denied the allegations of copyright infringement, and said the combination of elements Sheeran allegedly took was not unique enough to be covered by copyright law.

But on Thursday (29 September) US District Judge Louis Stanton denied the motion to throw out the case after musical experts on both sides failed to agree on the allegations.

Ed Sheeran won a copyright challenge over his song ‘Shape of You’ in April 2022 (image: Getty Images)

“There is no bright-line rule that the combination of two unprotectable elements is insufficiently numerous to constitute an original work,” Judge Stanton wrote in his ruling, which was obtained by the PA news agency.

“A work may be copyrightable even though it is entirely a compilation of unprotectable elements.”

In conclusion, he wrote: “Sheeran’s motion for summary judgement dismissing SAS’s claim for infringement is denied.”

There will now be a jury trial for the civil case in New York. Jurors will have to decide whether concert revenue can be included in any damages.

Ed Sheeran and his lawyers have not yet commented on the ruling. However, after winning his case against Sami Chokri in April, the musician said he hoped the result would halt future “baseless claims” about his songwriting.

He added that copyright claims had become “way too common now” and were “not a pleasant experience”. A court date for the latest copyright challenge is yet to be set.

Reporting by PA news agency