By Blake Brittain
(Reuters) – British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran on Tuesday defeated a second copyright lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan over similarities between his hit “Thinking Out Loud” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.”
U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton dismissed the case brought by Structured Asset Sales LLC, ruling that the parts of “Let’s Get It On” Sheeran was accused of infringing were too common for copyright protection.
Sheeran won a separate jury trial over the songs in the same court earlier this month.
Stanton presided over both cases, which concerned co-writer Ed Townsend’s share of Gaye’s 1973 classic. Townsend’s heirs failed to convince jurors that Sheeran infringed their part of Townsend’s copyright in the song.
Structured Asset Sales is owned by investment banker and “Bowie Bonds” creator David Pullman, and it owns part of Townsend’s interest in “Let’s Get It On.” It sued Sheeran, his label Warner Music Group and his music publisher Sony Music Publishing in 2018 after Townsend’s heirs filed their lawsuit.
Stanton on Tuesday found that the combination of chord progression and harmonic rhythm in Gaye’s song was a “basic musical building block” that was too common to merit copyright protection.
Sheeran’s attorney Ilene Farkas called the decision “an important victory not only for Ed” and collaborator Amy Wadge, “but for all songwriters and consumers of music.”
Structured Asset Sales has filed another lawsuit against Sheeran based on its rights to Gaye’s recording, which is still pending.
Pullman told Reuters that the jury in that case will get to hear the recording of “Let’s Get It On,” as opposed to the computerized rendition of the song’s sheet music from the Townsend trial.
“Their biggest fear, in terms of everything they’ve filed, has been to prevent the sound recording from coming in,” Pullman said.
(This story has been corrected to say that the decision was published on Tuesday, not Wednesday, in paragraph 6)
(Reporting by Blake Brittain in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler)