Jury finds Ed Sheeran did not infringe in copyright case

By Jennifer Korn, Matt Meyer and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 2107 GMT (0507 HKT) May 4, 2023
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1:23 p.m. ET, May 4, 2023

Jury finds Ed Sheeran did not infringe on the copyright of "Let's Get It On" 

From CNN’s Lauren del Valle and Kara Scannell

Ed Sheeran leaves court in New York, on April 25.
Ed Sheeran leaves court in New York, on April 25. (Yuki Iwamura/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

A Manhattan jury found Ed Sheeran's hit "Thinking Out Loud" did not infringe on the copyright of the classic Marvin Gaye song "Let's Get It On."  

The jury determined that Sheeran had independently created his song and did not wrongfully copy compositional elements or melodies from Gaye's song.

Upon hearing the verdict, Sheeran hugged his attorneys.

The plaintiffs had alleged similarities between the chord progression, harmonic rhythm and certain melodies in the two songs. Sheeran’s legal team had argued that the melodies are different and the elements used in both songs are common in pop music.

CNN's Sabrina Souza contributed to this report.

1:01 p.m. ET, May 4, 2023

Jury reaches a verdict in Ed Sheeran copyright infringement case 

From CNN’s Lauren del Valle

The jury has reached a verdict in the copyright infringement trial about whether Ed Sheeran's smash single “Thinking Out Loud” copied the classic Marvin Gaye song “Let’s Get It On.” 

The jury received the case late Wednesday afternoon and deliberated for approximately three hours

If the jury decides Sheeran is liable for copyright infringement, the trial will move onto the second phase to determine damages. 

The family of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote "Let's Get It On" with Gaye has accused Sheeran of copying the 1973 hit. 

The plaintiffs had alleged similarities between the chord progression, harmonic rhythm, and certain melodies in the two songs. Sheeran’s legal team had argued that the melodies are different and the elements used in both songs are common in pop music. 

1:15 p.m. ET, May 4, 2023

Other famous music copyright cases

Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke perform in 2014.
Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke perform in 2014. (Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

The copyright lawsuit against Ed Sheeran over his song “Thinking Out Loud” is not unprecedented. Similar lawsuits have become increasingly common in the music industry over the past few years, though the outcomes have been mixed.

Marvin Gaye’s family has previously sued other artists for copyright infringement—and won. The estate successfully sued singer Robin Thicke and producer Pharrell Williams for $7.4 million in 2015 for borrowing from Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” for their hit “Blurred Lines,” though the case turned into a five-year legal battle that ultimately saw the judgment reduced to $5.3 million. The ruling also awarded Gaye’s family 50% percent of the royalties from “Blurred Lines” moving forward. 

But other, recent copyright cases have had different outcomes.

Taylor Swift faced a similar case in 2017 over her smash hit “Shake It Off,” which was settled and dismissed last year. Led Zeppelin was sued in 2014 over its iconic tune “Stairway to Heaven” by the estate of late Randy California, former lead guitarist of the 1960s band Spirit, for lifting part of their single “Taurus.” A 2020 appeals court ruled in Led Zeppelin’s favor. 

Sheeran, meanwhile, has faced previous legal battles over his music and won.

In a 2022 case over his song “Shape of You,” a judge ruled in Sheeran’s favor that he did not copy grime artist Sami Switch’s song “Oh Why” after the musician accused Sheeran of plagiarizing a key part. He was also sued in 2016 over his single “Photograph,” which was settled out of court.

1:03 p.m. ET, May 4, 2023

Here's what you need to know about the case

Kathryn Townsend Griffin, daughter of singer and songwriter Ed Townsend, arrives to New York Federal Court as proceedings continue in a copyright infringement trial against singer Ed Sheeran on Thursday, May 4.
Kathryn Townsend Griffin, daughter of singer and songwriter Ed Townsend, arrives to New York Federal Court as proceedings continue in a copyright infringement trial against singer Ed Sheeran on Thursday, May 4. (John Minchillo/AP)

The trial concerns Sheeran’s song “Thinking Out Loud,” which won the 2016 Grammy award for song of the year.

The family of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote “Let’s Get It On” with Gaye, has accused Ed Sheeran of copying the 1973 hit.

The plaintiffs have alleged similarities between the chord progression, harmonic rhythm, and certain melodies in the two songs. Sheeran’s legal team has argued that the melodies are different and the elements used in both songs are common in pop music.

The lawsuit alleges there are “melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic compositions” in the two songs that are “substantially and/or strikingly similar.

12:59 p.m. ET, May 4, 2023

The jury briefly deliberated Wednesday before ending for the day

Musician Ed Sheeran leaves US Federal Court in New York City on April 25.
Musician Ed Sheeran leaves US Federal Court in New York City on April 25. (Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The jury in the Ed Sheeran copyright infringement case — about whether Sheeran’s smash single “Thinking Out Loud” copied the classic Marvin Gaye song “Let’s Get It On” — deliberated for about five minutes Wednesday evening before the judge sent jury members home.

Jurors sent a note to Judge Louis Stanton requesting that it break deliberations for the night and the judge granted that request around 5:10 p.m.

The jury continued deliberations Thursday morning at 10 a.m. 

Earlier Wednesday, an attorney representing the family suing Sheeran asked the jury Wednesday not to be “blinded by the defendant’s celebrity.”

“Mr. Sheeran is counting on you to be very, very overwhelmed by his commercial success,” attorney Keisha Rice said in her closing argument Wednesday.