Ed Sheeran is about to release his latest album, “Subtract”, and his searingly honest Disney+ documentary called “Ed Sheeran: The Sum Of It All” is out now, but he has threatened to give his music career up if he loses the copyright trial he is currently facing in court. The singer is being sued by the heirs of Ed Townsend, the co-writer who penned the 1973 Marvin Gaye hit, “Let’s Get It On”, for allegedly copying elements in his 2015 hit, “Thinking Out Loud”, without permission.
While the lawsuit was filed back in 2017, it has taken six years for it to reach a Manhattan federal court. Sheeran vehemently denies the claims. The Daily Mail reported that, when his attorney asked him about the toll the trial is taking on 2 May, Sheeran replied: “If that happens, I’m done, I’m stopping.” It is reported that Sheeran added, “I find it really insulting to devote my whole life to being a performer and a songwriter and have someone diminish it.”
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.”
If Sheeran loses the trial, there will be a second phase to determine how much he’ll owe in damages. A verdict is expected to be delivered this week.