An American judge has ruled that a jury must decide whether or not Ed Sheeran plagiarised Marvin Gaye’s song ‘Let’s Get It On’ for his own hit ‘Thinking Out Loud’.

In his decision released on Thursday (January 3rd), district judge Louis Stanton ruled that a jury must decide, in the process rejecting Sheeran’s motion to have the lawsuit dismissed. The judge also maintained that there were “substantial similarities between several of the two works' musical elements”.

Gaye’s track, one of his signature songs, was released in 1973, while Sheeran’s massive Grammy-winning hit ‘Thinking Out Loud’ was released from his second album X in 2014. The British singer has denied copying elements of Gaye’s track.

Ed SheeranThe lawsuit against Sheeran is to be heard by a jury

The lawsuit was brought by the estate and heirs of late producer Ed Townsend, who co-wrote ‘Let’s Get It On’. It names Sheeran, his co-writer Amy Padge, Sony/ATV Music Publishing and the Atlantic record label as defendants.

Judge Stanton is also overseeing a separate $100 million lawsuit over the same track, launched last June by the company Structured Asset Sales, which owns part of the copyright in ‘Let’s Get It On’.

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In his ruling, the judge said that the similarities between the tracks included their basslines and percussion, and said listeners might consider the two songs' “aesthetic appeal” to be similar. He also said there was disagreement over whether the harmonic and rhythmic composition of Gaye's song was too common to merit copyright protection.

Furthermore, Stanton ruled that in a jury case, jurors “may be impressed by footage of a Sheeran performance which shows him seamlessly transitioning” between the two songs.

Sheeran’s lawyers argued that their client’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’ was characterised by “sombre, melancholic tones, addressing long-lasting romantic love” while ‘Let’s Get It On’ was a “sexual anthem”.

In 2017, Sheeran settled a similar $20 million copyright infringement claim against him in the America, over his hit song ‘Photograph’. Songwriters Thomas Leonard and Martin Harrington had sued the singer the year before, claiming it had a similar structure to their song ‘Amazing’.

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