Looks like Ed Sheeran won’t be leaving the music industry in disgust after all.
The Galway Girl singer has been fighting a lawsuit for years now from a company called Structured Asset Sales, who had purchased the rights to the Marvin Gaye track Let’s Get It On. They claimed copyright infringement, arguing the megahit Thinking Out Loud had legally crossed the line in similarity to the R&B classic.
On Tuesday, Sheeran took the stand, declaring if he lost the case he would cease putting out music altogether:
“If that happens, I’m done, I’m stopping.”
It wasn’t the money, he explained, but the offense at the implication he had stolen the song he wrote with Amy Wadge:
“I find it to be really insulting. I work really hard to be where I’m at.”
On Thursday morning, after hearing experts on both sides, after hearing Teddy’s testimony, the jury finally got to decide. In just three hours of deliberation, they came back with their unanimous verdict: Sheeran and Wadge were not liable.
After the verdict was read, per People, Ed embraced his wife, Cherry Seaborn. Innerestingly, he then spoke with and hugged one of the plaintiffs, Kathryn Townsend Griffin, the daughter of Let’s Get It On co-writer Ed Townsend. Speaking directly to the outlet’s reporter in the courthouse, he said:
“I feel like the truth was heard and the truth was believed. It’s nice that we can both move on with our lives now — it’s sad that it had to come to this.”
But he had more to say. A lot more.
Outside the courtroom he addressed reporters with a prepared statement, and it was a big one. He began lighthearted but very quickly addressed the gravity of the situation, saying:
“Good afternoon. I am obviously very happy with the outcome of the case, and it looks like I’m not going to have to retire from my day job after all — but, at the same time, I am unbelievably frustrated that baseless claims like this are allowed to go to court at all.”
Laying out the problems with the case in as simple terms as possible, he explained:
“We have spent the last eight years talking about two songs with dramatically different lyrics, melodies and four chords which are also different and used by songwriters every day, all over the world. These chords are common building blocks which were used to create music long before Let’s Get It On was written and will be used to make music long after we are all gone. They are a songwriter’s ‘alphabet’, our tool kit and should be there for us all to use. No one owns them or the way they are played, in the same way, nobody owns the colour blue.”
The two songs obviously have some similarities. But the point is, many, many songs have similarities as there are only so many chords, etc. Historically songs had to be shown to infringe on the melody, harmony, rhythm, and/or lyrics to violate copyright. But since the immensely controversial Blurred Lines decision, there’s been something of a deluge of suits over songs that share even the most basic of musical elements, even a vibe.
“Unfortunately, unfounded claims like this one are being fuelled by individuals who are offered as experts in musical analysis. In this instance, the other side’s musicologist left out words and notes, presented simple (and different) pitches as melody, creating misleading comparisons and disinformation to find supposed similarities where none exist. They tried to manipulate my and Amy’s song to try to convince the jury that they had a genuine claim, and I am very grateful that the jury saw through those attempts. This seems so dangerous to me, both for potential claimants who may be convinced to bring a bogus claim, as well as those songwriters facing them. It is simply wrong. By stopping this practice, we can also properly support genuine music copyright claims so that legitimate claims are rightly heard and resolved.”
Emphasizing what’s at stake in these kinds of cases, in which “experts” are arguing in bad faith, he predicted:
“If the jury had decided this matter the other way, we might as well say goodbye to the creative freedom of songwriters. We need to be able to write our original music and engage in independent creation without worrying at every step of the way that such creativity will be wrongly called into question. Like artists everywhere, Amy and I work hard to independently create songs which are often based around real-life, personal experiences. It is devastating to be accused of stealing other people’s songs when we have put so much work into our livelihoods.”
He then pointed out what even a lawsuit he won has cost him:
“I am just a guy with a guitar who loves writing music for people to enjoy. I am not and will never allow myself to be a piggy bank for anyone to shake. Having to be in New York for this trial has meant that I have missed being with my family at my grandmother’s funeral in Ireland. I won’t get that time back. These trials take a significant toll on everybody involved, including Kathryn Townsend Griffin.”
Finally, he thanked everyone involved:
“I want to thank the jury for making a decision that will help to protect the creative process of songwriters here in the United States and around the world. I also want to thank my team who has supported me throughout this difficult process and to all the songwriters, musicians and fans who reached out with messages of support over the last few weeks. Finally, I want to thank Amy Wadge. Neither of us ever expected that nine years on from our wonderful writing session that we would be here having to defend our integrity. Amy, I feel so lucky to have you in my life.”
Ed finished by saying:
“We need songwriters and the wider musical community to come together to bring back common sense. These claims need to be stopped so that the creative process can carry on, and we can all just go back to making music. At the same time, we absolutely need trusted individuals, real experts who help support the process of protecting copyright. Thank you.”
Powerful words. Do YOU agree? See his statement in full (below)!
[Image via ABC News/YouTube.]