Ed Sheeran appears in US court for copyright trial

AFP

Ed Sheeran appeared in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday as a copyright trial began which alleges the British pop star ripped off the classic Marvin Gaye tune "Let’s Get it On" with his hit song "Thinking Out Loud".

Heirs of songwriter Ed Townsend allege Sheeran, his label Warner Music Group and music publisher Sony Music Publishing owe them a share of the profits for allegedly copying Gaye’s song, which Townsend co-wrote.

The trial is the first of three Sheeran could face from lawsuits over similarities between the two hits.

A lawyer for Townsend’s heirs told jurors that Sheeran “recognised the magic” of Gaye’s song and “decided to capture a bit of that magic for his own benefit".

“This case is simply about giving credit where credit is due,” lawyer Ben Crump said.

Crump said Sheeran effectively “confessed” to ripping off Gaye’s song when he performed it live as a medley with Thinking Out Loud.

Sheeran wore a black suit and light blue tie, watching intently as lawyers made their pitches to the seven-person jury.

Sheeran’s lawyer, Ilene Farkas, said the two songs are distinct and told jurors that the plaintiffs should not be allowed to “monopolise” a chord progression and melody that are used in countless songs.

“No one owns basic musical building blocks,” Farkas said.

Farkas said Sheeran and his Thinking Out Loud co-writer will testify to how their song was unique and sprang from a late-night conversation about everlasting love and loss.

If the jury finds Sheeran liable for copyright infringement, the trial will enter a second phase to determine how much he and his labels owe in damages. The first trial is expected to last about a week.

Sheeran is facing two related lawsuits from investment banker and Bowie Bonds creator David Pullman’s Structured Asset Sales LLC, which owns a third of Townsend’s rights in the song.

Sheeran won a trial in London last year in a separate case over his hit song Shape of You.

Gaye’s heirs won a landmark verdict in 2015 over claims that the Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams song Blurred Lines copied Gaye's Got to Give It Up.

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