A video that Ed Sheeran’s lawyers tried to stop being shown to jurors in the big ‘Thinking Out Loud’ song-theft trial is the “smoking gun” that proves that the pop star ripped off Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ when he wrote his song.
Or so said a lawyer representing the estate of ‘Let’s Get It On’ co-writer Ed Townsend as that trial got underway in New York yesterday. But not so, reckoned Sheeran himself. Unless you believe him to be a fucking idiot. And I mean, do you?
The latest in a number of song-theft lawsuits filed against Sheeran, the COVID pandemic somewhat delayed the Townsend estate’s litigation over ‘Thinking Out Loud’ from getting properly to court. But things finally got underway yesterday. The estate reckons that Sheeran’s 2014 song – a co-write with Amy Wadge – is a copyright-infringing rip off of the Marvin Gaye classic.
We already knew – from pre-trial wrangling – that a key piece of evidence in the court battle was going to be a clip recorded at a 2014 Sheeran concert in which the musician mashed together ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and ‘Let’s Get It On’. The Townsend side reckon that little on-stage mashup proves how similar the two songs are and that Sheeran was very much aware of the similarities.
High profile civil rights lawyer Ben Crump – who is on the Townsend side’s legal team – began yesterday’s proceedings by dubbing that video clip the smoking gun in the case. “That concert video is a confession”, he added.
But when questioned about the on-stage mashup later in the day, Sheeran argued that it’s quite easy to combine lots of pop songs in that way, and it’s therefore something he does pretty frequently. “Many songs have similar chords”, he explained. For example, he mused, “you can go from ‘Let It Be’ to ‘No Woman No Cry’”.
And yes, you can mash together ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and ‘Let’s Get It On’. But, Sheeran added, if – as the Townsend side claims – he’d deliberately set out to rip off Gaye’s track on his song, why would he then seek to draw everyone’s attention to the similarities on stage at his own show?
Which brings us to the key question here people: is Edward Sheeran a fucking idiot? “If I’d done what you’re accusing me of, I’d be an idiot to stand up in front of 20,000 people and do that”, he said of the filmed mashup moment, according to Billboard.
While getting in a long line of witnesses and experts to rigorously assess just how much of a fucking idiot Sheeran really is sounds like fun, the real debate in this case will be the extent to which copyright can protect individual musical segments that are basically the building blocks of most pop songs.
And if that sounds like a familiar debate, you were probably watching last year’s big Ed Sheeran song-theft bust up in the London courts.
“It’s my belief that most songs are built from musical building blocks that have been freely available for hundreds of years”, Sheeran said yesterday.
And, the legal argument goes, those individual segments or building blocks are not protected by copyright in isolation. Because if they were, well, I mean, think about it for a second, to think that’s a good idea, you’d have to be a fucking idiot.
Which possibly means that reaching a conclusion in this dispute does in fact require figuring out which side of the courtroom is occupied by fucking idiots. Good luck everybody!