Former ‘The Voice’ Cast Member Being Sued for $100 Million

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Pop music superstar and former “The Voice” mega mentor Ed Sheeran is being sued for $100 million and has been ordered to stand trial in the lawsuit, according to court documents obtained by Heavy.

Sheeran was sued in 2018. The lawsuit accuses him of copying parts of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” in his 2014 hit song “Thinking Out Loud,” according to court documents. The case is being heard in the Southern District of New York federal court in Manhattan. U.S. District Court Judge Louis Stanton ruled on September 29, 2022, that the case will move forward after Sheeran’s lawyers asked for it to be thrown out, court documents show.

The 31-year-old singer is being sued by investment banker David Pullman and his company Structured Asset Sales, which acquired a portion of songwriter Ed Townsend’s estate. Townsend co-wrote the 1973 song with Marvin Gaye, according to court documents. Townsend’s family sued Sheeran in 2016, but the case was dismissed, court records show.

“Thinking Out Loud” was awarded the 2014 Grammy for Song of the Year. Pullman and Structured Asset Sales are seeking $100 million in damages, according to court documents. Sheeran’s co-writer, Amy Wadge, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit along with Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Atlantic Records and others involved in the production of the song.

Sheeran’s Attorneys Argue the Elements Were Not Unique Enough

In their motion for summary judgment, Sheeran’s attorneys argued that the elements that were claimed to be stolen were not unique enough to be covered by copyright law. Stanton wrote in his ruling, “The law does not support Sheeran’s contention that the combination of LGO’s chord progression and harmonic rhythm is insufficiently original to warrant it copyrightable. There is no bright-line rule that the combination of two unprotectable elements is insufficiently numerous to constitute and original work.”

In the civil complaint, the plaintiff’s attorneys wrote that Sheeran’s 2014 song uses “melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, instrumental and dynamic elements” from “Let’s Get It On,” according to court documents obtained by Heavy. A trial date hasn’t been set yet and Sheeran’s attorneys could appeal the judge’s ruling, which would delay the trial.

Stanton ruled that expert musicologists from each side have presented “competing conclusions” on the “similarity between the musical elements” in “Let’s Get It On” and “Thinking Out Loud.” Stanton wrote that Structured Asset Sales’ experts “opine that the backing patterns are ‘harmonically equivalent,” while Sheeran’s expert “maintains they are objectively different.” Stanton wrote, “Although the two musical compositions are not identical, a jury could find that the overlap between the songs’ combination of chord progression and harmonic rhythm is very closed. Accordingly, questions remain that are not resolvable by summary judgment, but require trial.”

Sheeran has argued in the past that plagiarism claims are damaging to the songwriting industry and some common elements are inevitable because of how much music is readily available.

“There’s only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music,” Sheeran said on Instagram in April 2022. “Coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 songs are being released every day on Spotify. That’s 22 million songs a year, and there’s only 12 notes that are available.”

Taylor Swift Is Also Facing a Copyright Lawsuit

Taylor Swift

GettyTaylor Swift.

Taylor Swift, who is a longtime collaborator of Sheeran’s and was also a Mega Mentor on “The Voice,” is also being sued in a copyright case, according to federal court documents. Sean Hall and Nathan Butler, the writers of the 2000 3LW song “Plays Gon’ Playa” sued Swift in 2017, accusing her of stealing lyrics for her hit “Shake It Off.”

According to the lawsuit, they point to their lyrics “playas, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate. In “Shake It Off,” Swift sings, “the players gonna play, play, play” and”“the haters gonna hate, hate, hate.”

The 31-year-old singer-songwriter claimed she never listened to the band 3LW before she wrote the song “Shake It Off” and said in an August 2022 court declaration that the lyrics “were written entirely by me,” according to court documents. The case was dismissed in 2018, but the songwriters appealed and the case was reinstated in 2021 after a judge decided the songs have “enough objective similarities,” according to court documents.

The trial, which has been delayed several times since the case was reopened, is set to begin on January 17, 2023, in the Central District of California federal court in Los Angeles, according to court records. The case is being heard by U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald.

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