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Ed Sheeran's trial over alleged Marvin Gaye copyright infringement: all we know

Marvin Gaye's co-writer alleges Ed plagiarized "Let's Get It On" for his own hit "Thinking Out Loud"

Ed Sheeran arrives in federal court for a music copyright trial in New York
Ahad Sanwari
Ahad Sanwari - New York
Senior WriterNew York
April 25, 2023
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Ed Sheeran appeared in federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday over a lawsuit filed against him for alleged copyright infringement.

The singer is expected to testify in defense of his mega-hit "Thinking Out Loud," which the trial argues copied from the late Marvin Gaye's hit "Let's Get It On."

Read on to learn more about the trial, who is fighting the case, and how it might affect the superstar's career moving forward.

Ed Sheeran Music Copyright Trial Begins In New York© Getty Images
The singer arrived for the start of the trial in New York on Tuesday

Why is Ed Sheeran going to trial?

The suit alleges that the singer, 32, copied from the seminal 1973 Marvin Gaye track for his own 2014 song, which has since become one of the most streamed songs in Spotify history (with over 2.2 billion streams and counting).

MORE:  Who is Ed Sheeran's wife? All about Cherry Seaborn

The case is based specifically on the song's chords, with the suit claiming that the chord progression (aka the sequence in which the chords are played) are nearly identical.

Marvin Gaye Performs In Rotterdam© Getty Images
It is being claimed that the singer copied parts of Marvin Gaye's hit "Let's Get It On"

Who is filing the case against Ed Sheeran?

The case is being taken to court by the heirs of Ed Townsend, the late songwriter and producer who worked with Gaye on the record and was the primary songwriter of the 1973 song.

Townsend's daughter, Kathryn Townsend Griffin, is the primary plaintiff, supported by the late songwriter's sister Helen McDonald and the estate of his former wife Cherrigale Townsend. Kathryn, in her opening testimony, stated: "I have to protect my father's legacy."

MORE: Everything we know about Ed Sheeran's children with wife Cherry Seaborn

The case was originally filed in 2017 but has seen several delays since then and has now finally gone to trial. The amount being sought in damages is unspecified, although insider reports suggest it could be a multimillion dollar lawsuit.

Rhythm And Blues Singer Ed Townsend© Getty Images
The heirs of Ed Townsend have filed a copyright infringement suit against Ed

Have other Marvin Gaye songs gone to trial?

In 2013, Gaye's family alleged that the Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and T.I. hit "Blurred Lines" (2012) copied the feel and sound of his 1977 single "Got to Give it Up," with the three musicians filing a countersuit the same year.

The case shook the industry, sparking several conversations around songwriting and drawing inspiration from previous hits, and after going to trial, in 2015, the jury found Robin and Pharrell guilty of copyright infringement, awarding $7.4 million in damages, which was eventually lowered to $5.3 million.

How will the case affect Ed Sheeran's career?

In the short run, it might prove distracting to Ed, who is preparing for the release of his fifth studio album, – (Subtract), on May 5, as well as a North American tour which kicks off later this week on April 29.

In the long run, however, it might prove to be detrimental towards the singer's credibility, having already fought two such suits in the past centering on some of his biggest hits.

MORE: Ed Sheeran shares very rare look inside eccentric home with his baby

The songwriters of Matt Cardle's hit "Amazing" sued Ed in 2016, claiming he'd copied parts of the song for his "Photograph," which was settled out of court and resulted in the two writers being credited for "Photograph."

And just last year, he won an infringement case in the UK over his 2017 smash "Shape of You," after which he took to social media to share a statement on the impact such trials had on him, which you can see in the video below.

WATCH: Ed Sheeran reacts after High Court win in "Shape of You" copyright battle

"There's only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music," he stated. "Lawsuits are not a pleasant experience, and I just hope with this ruling, baseless claims like this can be avoided. This really does have to end."

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