Ed Sheeran is on trial in New York for copyright infringement

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 25: Musician Ed Sheeran leaves after the first day of his copyright-infringement trial at Manhattan Federal Court on April 25, 2023 in New York City. The four-time Grammy winner stands accused of lifting parts of Marvin Gaye’s legendary R&B song “Let’s Get It On” in his 2014 hit “Thinking Out Loud.” Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Michael M. Santiago / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

On Tuesday, a high-profile copyright trial over whether Ed Sheeran’s breakthrough tune “Thinking Out Loud” plagiarized a vintage Marvin Gaye song officially began in a Manhattan federal courtroom.

Ben Crump, a lawyer representing the family of the co-writer for Gaye’s 1973 hit “Let’s Get It On,” said in his opening statement that Sheeran played his ballad and Gaye’s song back-to-back in a medley during a concert, and called the moment a “smoking gun.”

Sheeran, who was in court, is accused of plagiarizing “Let’s Get It On” by the heirs of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote the song with Gaye. The plaintiffs in the “Thinking Out Loud” action are Townsend’s daughter Kathryn Townsend Griffin, his sister Helen McDonald, and the estate of his former wife, Cherrigale Townsend. Gaye passed away in 1984, while Townsend passed away in 2003.

Crump attempted to depict Sheeran in court on Tuesday as someone who recognized the “magic” of Gaye’s soul ballad and then used it to boost his career. “Thinking Out Loud” went on to win the Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 2016.

“if you remember nothing else about this trial, about this case, it is about giving credit where credit is due,” Crump told the jury, which was selected Monday.

According to CNN, Sheeran’s legal team contended that the sounds utilized in both songs are typical of pop music. “No one owns basic musical building blocks,” Sheeran’s lawyer, Ilene Farkas, told the jury in opening remarks.

In recent years, there have been a number of high-profile music copyright disputes.

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