Ed Sheeran has arrived in court for day two of a $100million copyright trial in which he is accused of ripping off Marvin Gaye’s soul classic Let’s Get It On.
The British pop star is alleged to have copied elements of the song for his 2014 hit Thinking Out Loud.
The family of Gaye’s co-writer, Ed Townsend, say there are ‘striking similarities’ between the tracks.
During the trial opening at Manhattan Federal Court on Tuesday, Sheeran was forced to deny allegations that a video of him performing a mash-up of the songs effectively amounted to a ‘confession’.
Sheeran, 32, told the jury he would have been ‘quite an idiot to stand on a stage in front of 20,000 people and do that’.
Ed Sheeran arrives at Manhattan Federal Court for day two of the copyright trial against him
The British pop star is accused of ripping off the American singer’s Let’s Get It On track for his 2014 hit Thinking Out Loud
The heirs of Gaye’s co-writer, Ed Townsend, claim there are ‘striking similarities’ in the tracks
US District Judge Louis Stanton added a moment of levity when he told the seven jurors ‘we don’t allow dancing’ as videos of the pop star performing a medley of his hit song ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and Marvin Gaye’s soul classic ‘Let’s Get it On’ were played.
Lawyers for the heirs of Townsend, who are seeking a $100million payout, showed the video of the mash-up to support their allegation Sheeran, his label and music publisher owe them a share of the profits for the song.
Ben Crump said the case was about ‘giving credit where credit is due.’
Sheeran looked on as his lawyer, Ilene Farkas, insisted the musician and co-writer, Amy Wadge, wrote their song independently and did not steal from Townsend and Gaye.
She said they ‘created this heartfelt song without copying ‘Let’s Get It On.”
The chord progression and basic building blocks in Sheeran’s song are frequently used, and didn’t appear first in ‘Let’s Get It On,’ his lawyer said.
‘Let’s Get It On’ has been heard in countless films and commercials and garnered hundreds of millions of streams, spins and radio plays since it came out in 1973. ‘Thinking Out Loud’ won a Grammy for song of the year in 2016.
The lawsuit was filed in 2017. The trial is expected to last up to two weeks.
Townsend, who also wrote the 1958 R&B doo-wop hit ‘For Your Love,’ was a singer, songwriter and lawyer. He died in 2003.
Kathryn Townsend Griffin, his daughter, is the plaintiff leading the lawsuit.
‘I think Mr. Sheeran is a great artist with a great future,’ she said in her testimony, adding that she didn’t want it to get to this point of the case. ‘But I have to protect my father’s legacy.’
Sheeran is expected to testify again later in the trial as part of the defense case.
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.
Sheeran was forced to deny he had ripped off the song during opening statements Tuesday
It was claimed that a video of him performing a mash-up of the songs amounted to a ‘confession’
Kathryn Townsend Griffin, daughter of singer and songwriter Ed Townsend, speaks outside Manhattan Federal Court on Wednesday
Way back when: The heirs of Ed Townsend, Gaye’s co-writer on the 1973 classic, have sued Sheeran, alleging ‘striking similarities’ and ‘overt common elements’ between the 2014 track and the Motown hit (Townsend pictured in 1959)
Mike Gilbert, partner and copyright infringement expert at Marks & Clerk, told DailyMail.com the trial had possible implications for future cases.
He said: ‘Despite his clear victory in the English courts when faced with similar allegations from Chokri of copying harmonic progressions in Shape of You last year, Ed Sheeran will again be facing accusations of thematic copying but this time in the US justice system.
‘Many had hoped that the earlier trial in the UK will have drawn a clear line in the sand for artists considering bringing similar claims to court.
‘Over recent years, a growing number of these kinds of copyright infringement cases have reached the court and the decision in the Chokri trial ought to have sent a clear signal that should deter future claimants.
‘The truth is, big artists are all too aware of the obligations they’re under to pay credit where credit’s due. But this current battle is not with an artist, but with a songwriter’s estate. And the claim was commenced years before the Shape of You decision was handed down last year.’
Gaye’s estate is not involved in the case, though it will inevitably have echoes of their successful lawsuit against Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and T.I. over the resemblance of their 2013 hit ‘Blurred Lines’ to Gaye’s 1977 ‘Got to Give it Up.’
A jury awarded Gaye’s heirs $7.4 million at trial – later trimmed by a judge to $5.3 million – making it among the most significant copyright cases in recent decades.
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