Lets Get It On…Trial – Another Copyright Infringement Case for Ed Sheeran

Categories: Asma Raza

In relation to his is song “Shape of You”. Over the pond, Sheeran is accused of copyright infringement of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” in his song “Thinking Out Loud“.

There are two on-going cases relating to “Let’s Get It On” and “Thinking Out Loud”, before Judge Louis L Stanton in the New York Southern District Court. Neither of the cases are brought by the Gaye Estate. The song was recorded by Marvin Gaye, but was written by Ed Townsend who owned 2/3rd of the royalties for the song when he died in 2003.
The first is between Structured Asset Sales (SAS) and Sheeran, his co-writer Amy Wadge and their record labels. SAS is a beneficial owner of one-third of all of the copyright rights of Townsend in all of his catalogue of works, including “Let’s Get it On.”
The second case is brought by Kathryn Townsend Griffin (biological daughter of Townsend, adopted as a child by other parents), and the Estate of Townsend. The latest judgement in this case was filed yesterday, here’s what happened:


Townsend filled a complaint for copyright infringement in June 2018. In response Sheeran denied copying and applied for a Summary Judgement to dismiss the case on the grounds that
1) the scope of the copyright protection is limited to the sheet music as deposited; 2) the songs are not substantially similar; 3) that any alleged similarities are not protected as commonplace elements; 4) that the plaintiff Kathryn Townsend Griffin lacked standing to bring the case since she was adopted by other parents.


1) The Scope of Copyright Protection

In support of the application for copyright infringement, Townsend submitted the sheet music for LGO. Sheeran argued that the LGO deposit defines the scope of protection, pointing to a previous case (Wolfe v. Zeppelin 905 F . 3d 1116, 9th C 2018) that held the deposit of the plaintiffs work, rather than the sound recording, defined the scope of protection, since the purpose of the deposit is to identify the work in which copyright is claimed.

Both parties agreed that the LGO deposit copy includes the composition’s key, meter, harmony (chord progression), rhythm, melody, lyrics, and song structure, but Townsend argued that the composition is embodied on the Gaye recording.

This is important because, as the court noted, hearing the percussion and bass increases the perception of similarity between the works. At this stage, the court left this question open.

2) Are the Songs Substantially Similar? 

Under US law, to prevail on a copyright infringement claim, a plaintiff must establish that the defendant has actually copied the plaintiff’s work; and that the copying is of a substantial similarity exists between the defendant’s work and the protectible elements of plaintiff’s. The test for substantial similarity is whether an ordinary observer, unless he set out to detect the disparities, would be disposed to overlook them, and regard the aesthetic appeal as the same.

In doing so the court considers, whether an average lay observer would recognise the alleged copy as having been appropriated from the copyrighted work. However, where a work has both protectible and unprotectible elements, the analysis must be more discerning, and involves extracting the unprotectible elements from the consideration. The Court then only asks whether the protectible elements, standing alone, are substantially similar.

In the present case, both parties submitted musicologist reports and agreed to some similarities between the songs such as the I – iii – IV-V harmonic progression, harmonic rhythm with anticipated

second and fourth chords, melody , bass – line , and percussion. Parties dispute the similarity of the vocal melody, harmonic rhythm, harmony, bass-line and percussion. There is no claim of similarities between the lyrics or song structures.

The Judge noted that the key, tempo, meter, and genre of the two compositions are similar , but are unprotectable elements. Sheeran pointed to other elements – song structure , lyrics , and tone – to highlight the difference in “total concept and feel” between the works; submitting that TOL is characterised by somber, melancholic tones, about long-lasting romantic love, whereas LGO is a “sexual anthem that radiates positive emotions and encourages the listener to get it on”.

In light of which, the judge held that the question whether TOL is substantially similar LGO should be determined by trial rather than summarily.

3) Is it Infringement or Are The Parts Taken Common Place?

Sheeran argues that the similar elements between the songs are not protected as commonplace elements. The parties dispute whether the basic I – iii-IV- V chord progression used in LGO is common place, or was commonplace prior to LGO. Townsend conceded that Sheeran’s expert identified at least thirteen songs that predate LGO that use the same chord progression, and that it appears in at least two guitar method books. However, they noted that only a dozen or so were identified that contained this chord progression prior to LGO.

The parties also dispute whether the harmonic rhythm of that four-chord progression – the second and fourth chords being “anticipated” or placed ahead of the beat – is protectable. Sheeran says its a common place technique, Townsend claims its distinctive.

Both disagreements precludes summary judgment since the question of whether the elements warrant copyright protection is a factual question to be determined at trial.

4) Does the Plaintiff Have Standing?

Sheeran argued that the plaintiff Kathryn Townsend Griffin lacked standing to bring the case since she was adopted by other parents. However, the judge agreed followed the decision of the Superior Court of California which previously ordered that Kathryn was an intestate heir of Townsend

and thus entitled to 30% of the royalties from his music.

Lets Get It On Trial, Summary Judgement Denied

The summary judgement was denied because the judge said that the questions relating to the these issues needed to be decided by trial. This is common since the issue of substantial similarity is frequently a fact issue for jury resolution in the US.
A jury might side with either view; it may be impressed by footage of a Sheeran performance which shows him seamlessly transitioning between LGO and TOL. However, a jury could find several similarities between the two songs and therefore find Sheeran to be infringing.
The case is very similar to another that the Gaye family bought against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams, where they succeeded in claiming “Blurred Lines” copied “Got To Give It Up”. As a result, the Gaye family received a pay out of $5 Million and 50% of future royalties. So if Sheeran looses he could be face the same level of damages.


  1. Grow a second income™

  2. Grow a second income™

  3. Great Content and 10 Ways to use this

  4. Great Content and 10 Ways to use this

  5. http://buystromectolon.com/ – ivermectin tablets for humans

  6. I need to to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely enjoyed every
    bit of it. I have you saved as a favorite to check out new stuff you post…

  7. Aw, this was a really nice post. Spending some time and actual effort to create a really good article… but what can I say… I hesitate a whole lot and don’t manage to get
    nearly anything done.

  8. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well written article.
    I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of
    your useful info. Thanks for the post. I will certainly comeback.

  9. Please let me know if you’re looking for a article writer for your blog.
    You have some really great posts and I think I would be a good asset.
    If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d really like to write some content for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine.
    Please shoot me an e-mail if interested. Kudos!

  10. Nice weblog right here! Additionally your website
    rather a lot up very fast! What web host
    are you the usage of? Can I am getting your associate link
    in your host? I wish my web site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  11. Hi there, I read your blog daily. Your story-telling style is witty,
    keep up the good work!

  12. This blog was… how do you say it? Relevant!!
    Finally I have found something that helped me.

    Thank you!

  13. It’s very trouble-free to find out any topic on net as compared to textbooks, as I found this paragraph at this site.

  14. Spot on with this write-up, I really believe this amazing site needs a great deal more attention. I’ll probably be returning
    to read through more, thanks for the info!

  15. cheaest cialis professional

  16. http://buypropeciaon.com/ – buy fincar online review united states

  17. Order Cheap Propecia Hair Loss

  18. Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your blog and in accession capital
    to assert that I get in fact enjoyed account your blog
    posts. Anyway I will be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you
    access consistently rapidly. scoliosis surgery https://0401mm.tumblr.com/ scoliosis surgery

  19. Hello mates, how is everything, and what you wish for to say regarding this article, in my view its actually amazing in favor of me.
    ps4 games https://bit.ly/3nkdKIi ps4

  20. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s equally educative and
    interesting, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head.
    The problem is an issue that not enough
    people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy I found this in my search for something relating to this.
    cheap flights http://1704milesapart.tumblr.com/ cheap flights

  21. comprar cialis generico por telefono

  22. https://prednisonebuyon.com/ – prednisolone contraindications

  23. Propecia Cheap No Prescription

  24. buy accutane isotretinoin online

  25. Priligy Informacion Para Prescribir

  26. Propecia Mental Side Effects Peyronie’S Disease

  27. Can I Take Expired Amoxicillin Pills

  28. Kamagra E Hipertension Pulmonar

  29. Here’s How to Get Accident, Dental and Health Insurance Online in Minutes – http://plans7.com

  30. Hi there, I found your site by the use of Google whilst searching for a comparable matter, your site came up, it appears to be like great.

    I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.
    Hi there, simply was alert to your blog thru Google,
    and found that it is truly informative. I’m gonna watch out for brussels.
    I will appreciate in case you continue this in future.
    Numerous other people can be benefited out of your writing.


  31. tadalafil without a doctor prescription cialis without prescription

Leave Comments

Contact Us

Monday – Saturday: 9 am to 6 pm
Sunday: day off