In Let's Get It On Trial Team Sheeran Calls Songwriting Risky as Crump Says Pay Townsend
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SDNY COURTHOUSE, May 3 – In 2017 Ed Sheeran was sued for allegedly infringing the copyright of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" in his 2014 song, "Thinking Out Loud."
On April 24, 2023 the jury begins before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Louis L. Stanton. Inner City Press will cover it.
The actual Marvin Gaye recording may not be played for the jury. But a 2014 YouTube concern clip of Sheeran breaking into Let's Get It On while (singing) Thinking Out Loud may be - the clip is here, at 4:29.
The plaintiff is not Marvin Gaye but rather Kathryn Griffin-Townsend as heir of Ed Townsend, Gaye's co-writer on "Let's Get It On." Among plaintiffs' counsel is Ben Crump.
On April 24 for jury selection, Crump was there. In the jury pool were a musicology, a mother with two daughters who are Sheeran fans, and a woman who had Sheeran's "Perfect" as her wedding song. Thread here. The jury was picked and sent home; chords - four or six was the debate - were played.
On April 25, opening arguments and witnesses including Ed Sheeran (who later left court without comment). Inner City Press was there, thread here.
On May 1, Sheeran continued with guitar on the stand, until he was cross examined. Then Amy Wadge... Inner City live tweeted, here:
OK - now the Ed Sheeran trial for allegedly rippi ng off Let's Get It On has resumed, with Sheeran on the stand.
Ed Sheeran has his guitar on the witness stand, again. Counsel: What happened after you arrived at the studio? Sheeran: We caught up then recorded the song. I played the guitar on it.
Counsel: Other people contributed parts?
Sheeran: Yes. As session musicians Sheeran: We went out to a pub nearby and we played the song there. Counsel: Defendant's exhibit 236, I'll show you the opening frame. Sheeran: Do I wait for it to be on the main screen?
Counsel: No, it's just for you.
Sheeran: I recognize it. Counsel: I move to admit it into evidence... Do you recall what chord you were playing when you sang some of the words to Let's Get It On?
Now Sheeran again picks up guitar and plays and sings. Counsel: What were you listening to at the time? Sheeran: What I'd grown up listening to. Van Morrison...
Cross examination: Plaintiff's counsel: You say you were taking a shower than came out and heard Amy playing a song?
Sheeran: I took a shower, yes. She playing chords she'd used busking. They're very common chords. In Let's Get It On trial now Amy Wadge in on the stand. Q: When did you meet Ed Sheeran? Wadge: He was sent to write songs with me. He was 17. I was 32. It was very much the beginning of his career.
Amy Wadge: Ed gave me 5% on a song that he said was related to one I wrote. Plaintiff's counsel: Do you think he copies your song on purpose? Sheeran's lawyer: Objection! Judge Stanton: Overruled. Wadge: He heard it and said it remined him, so gave me 5%.
Plaintiff's lawyer: If there are only seven notes in a scale, what is the purpose of copyright? Amy Wadge: To protect the progress of art. I use only four chords. I do not have the musically ability to do anything but use those building blocks.
Plaintiff's lawyer: If everything is fair game, why would you accept a dollar for you work, or a pound? Sheeran's lawyer: Objection. Judge Stanton: Sustained under 403. Plaintiff's lawyer: You said you were familiar with Let's Get It On? Wadge: Yes.
Plaintiff's lawyer: Over here, Let's Get It On is used to sell ribs for Applebee's, did you know? Wadge: No. Plaintiff's lawyer: Did you check if your song infringed on Let's Get it On? Wadge: No. Plaintiff's lawyer: You're being sued in another case? Wadge: Yes
Plaintiff's lawyer: What kind of discussion have you had with Mr. Sheeran about these cases? Wadge: No, we decided a long time not to talk about it.
Plaintiff's lawyer: Are you aware of the Zurich video? Wadge: I've seen it.
On May 2, the defense case continued. Talk turned to Van Morrison, and Tupelo Honey. Inner City Press thread here:
OK - the Ed Sheeran trial for allegedly ripping of Let's Get It on has just restarted for the day, at 11:15 am.
On the witness stand, Ed Sheeran's musicologist who says he transcribed the song(s).
He says, Each one of these represents a chord progression in TOL (Thinking Out Loud). They are similar to LGO (Let's Get it On).
Sheeran's lawyer: Is the chord progression the same?
Sheeran's expert: No.
In Ed Sheeran trial, it just goes on, with keyboard examples, now on similarities between Let's Get It On and... I've Got Love In My Mind.
In Ed Sheeran trial, now questions about Van Morrison. Q: Did you analyze the works of Van Morrison?
A: I did. Tupelo Honey...
On May 3, end of the defense case, and closing arguments, Inner City Press was there, thread here:
OK - now Ed Sheeran trial for allegedly ripping off Let's Get It On resumes, with defense musicologist on the witness stand.
Musicologist: In "Satisfaction," the lyrics is the hook. In Thinking Out Loud, the number of repeats is not throughout the song. Counsel: But it's through the two main verses, correct? Musicologist: No. Maybe there's one iteration of that chord progress.
Musicologist: The root could be D, a variant [plays electric keyboard]
Counsel: You testified it's D F-sharp, G major, and is it A? Musicologist: That's the basic chord progression for purposes of analysis.
Sheeran's lawyer: Plaintiff's lawyer quoted something that you are the industry's go-to expert who gives the opinions they want. Was that the court's finding? Musicologist: No. Sheeran's lawyer: In fact, in that case the court credited *your* opinion? Yes
Sheeran's lawyer: Your Honor, defendant rests. [Now a sidebar is called - but, case is coming to a close
Judge Stanton: Jurors, I have to discuss things with the lawyers, it happens in every case. I think we can reconvene at 2:15 and have the closing arguments [in Ed Sheeran trial]. Have a good lunch. Sheeran feed will continue here.
OK - now the closing arguments.
Sheeran's lawyer: We have shown with the testimony of Amy Wadge and Ed Sheeran that they independently created Thinking Out Loud. They told you the inspiration. You heard when Doctor Ferrara played the song, they are different Sheeran's lawyer: Nothing in Thinking Out Loud came from Let's Get It On. Ed and Amy wrote it, as they have written many other songs. This chord progression & anticipation technique are common. Van Morrison used it in seven songs. Request the claim of infringement
Sheeran's lawyer: This claim should never have been brought. Different melodies, different structures. Ed Townsend did not create these basic musical building blocks. Ed Townsend was not the first songwriter to use and combine these elements. It was not original
Sheeran's lawyer: All they have is a video of a mash up. Ed Sheeran says he had read they shared a similar chord progression so he did a mash up. He does it with Crazy Love and I Will Always Love You. If every "interpolation" is a confession...
Sheeran's lawyer: Their smoking gun is shooting blanks. They had their expert Doctor Stewart pretend there are similarities....
Amy and Ed stayed up later, they talked about relatives who passed away. The chords Amy plays have been used in countless songs before Sheeran's lawyer: Songwriting is a risky profession. Many songs are written and few are recorded. Fewer still are successful.
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Sheeran's lawyer: I'd like to thank the jury on behalf of Mr. Sheeran.
Judge Stanton: Thank you.
Keisha Rice: We too want to thank you, on behalf of the plaintiffs...
Ben Crump: If you believe Ed Townsend deserves compensation, stand your ground.
Inner City Press will cover it to verdict - and beyond.
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