Ed Sheeran Headed to Trial Over Claim He Copied "Let's Get It On"

Ed Sheeran - The BRIT Awards Show Performance - Getty - H 2018
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Marvin Gaye's music is poised to headline another high-profile trial — this time involving Ed Sheeran, who's accused of copying "Let's Get It On" in his 2014 song "Thinking Out Loud."

Kathryn Townsend Griffin in June sued Sheeran, claiming to own a partial copyright in Gaye's 1973 song as an heir of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote it.

On Wednesday, New York federal judge Louis Stanton denied Sheeran's motion for summary judgment, shutting down his arguments that the works aren't substantially similar, any similarities concern only unprotectable elements and Griffin lacks standing to sue. 

Stanton didn't reach the issue of whether the sheet music deposited with the copyright office or the sound recording of "Let's Get It On" will be used to evaluate substantial similarity. In the last trial over Gaye's work — the infamous "Blurred Lines" case — the court didn't let the jury listen to the original sound recording of "Got to Give It Up." 

"Not only are there substantial similarities between several of the two works' musical elements, but an ordinary observer might experience the aesthetic appeal of both works as the same," writes Stanton in the ruling, which is posted in full below. "Even without considering the bass-line and drum parts, which are not present in the LGO deposit copy, the question whether TOL infringes on LGO should be determined by trial rather than summarily."

Stanton also notes that a jury "may be impressed by footage of a Sheeran performance, which shows him seamlessly transitioning between LGO and TOL."

Sheeran recently settled copyright claims over his song "Photograph" and one he co-wrote with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill called "The Rest Of Our Life."