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Why is Ed Sheeran being sued for $100 million?

The pop star has been accused of copying elements of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ in his wildly successful 2014 track ‘Thinking Out Loud’.

Update:
Ed Sheeran to face trial in $100 million plagiarism lawsuit
AFP

British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran has been ordered to stand trial in the United States after a judge ruled that a jury should decide whether he copied elements from Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ in a hit track.

The 31-year old was sued in 2018 over claims that his ‘Thinking Out Loud’ copied the 1973 R&B song. The claim was lodged by investment banker David Pullman whose company, Structured Asset Sales, acquired a portion of the estate of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote Gaye’s original.

The claimants allege that Sheeran, along with co-writer Amy Wadge, “copied and exploited, without authorisation or credit”, the track.

Specifically, they claim that the areas of duplication include “the melody, rhythms, harmonies, drums, bass line, backing chorus, tempo, syncopation and looping”.

Sheeran is at the centre of multiple lawsuits

Thursday’s ruling from Judge Louis Stanton will have come as a blow for Sheeran, whose legal team must now prepare for court in the states. Copyright lawyers are often extremely reluctant to go to trial because they risk encountering jurors who have difficulty understanding the complexities of plagiarism law.

Identifying similarities between two songs is not proof of plagiarism, but it can be difficult for the defence to make that case to a jury.

Pullman’s $100 million lawsuit is not the only one currently lodged against the ‘Thinking Out Loud’. His firm have another case currently on pause, while a third lawsuit from a different portion of Townsend’s estate is also awaiting trial.

Sheeran has previously argued that plagiarism claims can be extremely damaging to the song-writing industry and that similarities are inevitable given the vast catalogue of music that is now easily available.

Speaking on Instagram he said: “There’s only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music. Coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 songs are being released every day on Spotify. That’s 22 million songs a year, and there’s only 12 notes that are available.”

How much is Ed Sheeran worth?

The lawsuit is seeking $100 million in damages on the basis that Sheeran profited hugely from ‘Thinking Out Loud’. The track hit No. 1 in the UK in November 2014 and reached No. 2 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Canadian Hot 100.

The following year it become the first song to reach 500 million streams on Spotify and by April 2022 had reached 3.4 billion views on YouTube.

It has been a huge commercial success and featured prominently in Sheeran’s 2014-2015 world tour, which is thought to have earnt him $150 million. The latest estimates suggest that Sheeran has a personal wealth of around $200 million off the back of numerous hit records, astonishing streaming figures and wildly successful stadium tours.

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