Ed Sheeran's Lawyers Object to Sprawling Nature of 'Photograph' Copyright Suit

Ed Sheeran - Billboard Cover - H 2015

When film studios and record companies get sued for copyright infringement, their first move is often to tell the court that the suing plaintiff hasn't plausibly alleged the misappropriation of non-generic expression. But that's not what Ed Sheeran's lawyers are arguing to a California federal judge after the star musician was hit with a $20 million lawsuit over "Photograph."

In reaction to a complaint that contends "Photograph" is "verbatim, note-for-note copying" of a 2009 work titled "Amazing" — authored by Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard — the defendants complained on Friday about the bulkiness of the lawsuit.

"Defying the most fundamental pleading requirement of providing short, concise and plain statements, the First Amended Complaint consists of 44 sprawling pages of prolix, repetitive, argumentative and scandalous allegations, made mostly on 'information and belief,'" states the defendants in court papers. "It makes sweeping, generalized allegations — in 156 paragraphs, some of which go on for pages and contain upwards of 25 or 30 different sentences — against eleven distinct Defendants."

The songwriters, represented by Richard Busch (the attorney who represented the Marvin Gaye family in a copyright suit against the hit "Blurred Lines"), filed a highly detailed complaint that included musical notation of both "Photograph" and "Amazing," which was released as a single by Matt Cardle, the winner of the 2010 season of the television competition show The X Factor.

Sheeran, Sony, Warner and the other defendants have now brought two motions to dismiss.

One (here) contends that a lawsuit with "breathtakingly long paragraphs" is a violation of the rule that mandates a "short and plain" statement. 

"Responding in any meaningful way to the improper [First Amended Complaint] is impossible — nor should eleven different Defendants be put to the task and expense of having to draft responses to this massively improper pleading," write Michael Niborski and Ilene Farkas at Pryor Cashman.

On the other hand, the defendants want more clarity on who did what.

"Each Defendant is entitled to have allegations that are directed at it or him," continues the motion. "Simply lumping Defendants together is not proper."

Adding to the potential word count is the argument in the second motion to dismiss (here). It deals with the fact that many of the defendants including Sheeran's publishing company are domiciled in the U.K. As such, there's a nod to the "jurisdictional failures" of the lawsuit.

"Plaintiffs’ conclusory assertions, unsupported by a single fact, provide no good faith basis to allege contacts between these U.K. companies and California," write Niborski and Farkas.

Who said suing 11 defendants is easy?