A singer/songwriter who began playing guitar at a young age and soon after started writing his own songs Ed Sheeran must now face a jury trial in regards to accusations that he lifted bits of his 2014 song “Thinking Out Loud” from Marvin Gaye‘s 1972 classic “Let’s Get It On.”

The move comes on part of a federal judge who barred the singer-songwriter’s request to toss the case, which has been ongoing since 2018. The parties bringing the “Thinking Out Loud” copyright claims — who are partial owners of the Gaye song — are seeking $100 million in damages from the British musician, however, his attorneys are contesting the

Lawsuit by citing the alleged stolen song bits as “commonplace,” and therefore not warranted for a copyright infringement claim, according to Variety.

Sheeran will have to appear in front of a Manhattan federal jury as ordered by Judge Louis Stanton, who on Thursday decided there was “no bright-line rule” for the attorneys’ proposed dispute.

When the lawsuit was first filed, it claimed Sheeran had lifted a chord progression and the harmonic rhythm of Gaye’s track. Now, Sheeran’s accusers have adjusted their claims to acknowledge Sheeran’s attorneys, agreeing that the song elements are “commonplace and unprotectable.” However, they argue that their combination is what makes them exclusively Gaye’s — and therefore shielded by copyright law.

Sheeran has had to fight several similar cases in the past, including suits over “Photograph” (which was settled out of court), “The Rest of Our Life,” (which was dismissed at Sheeran’s request), and most recently won a case arguing he had plagiarized “Shape of You.” Shortly after the verdict, the singer issued a video statement expressing that these cases were “really damaging to the songwriting industry.”

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He continued, “Whilst we’re obviously happy with the result I feel like claims like this are way too common now and we’ve become a culture where a claim is made with the idea that settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court, even if there is no base to the claim.”

Several years ago, Gaye’s catalog was involved in another headline-making lawsuit at the hands of his heirs against Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and others for “Blurred Lines,” resulting in $5.3 million in damages awarded to the family. However, this case was issued by a company called Structured Asset Sales, which owns one-third of the song’s shares via “Let’s Get It On” co-writer Ed Townsend.

Structured Asset Sales (SAS) is seeking $100 million in damages, while alleging that Sheeran and his co-writer Amy Wadge “copied and exploited, without authorisation or credit” Gaye’s song, “including, among others, the melody, rhythms, harmonies, drums, bass line, backing vocals, tempo, syncopation and looping.”

They released the song in June 1973 and it reached number one in September of that year.

Now, a jury must decide whether the two songs are substantially similar because music experts on both sides of the dispute disagree on whether Sheeran’s song mimics ‘Let’s Get It On’.

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.

“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.

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Sources: Variety, Marca, National World

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