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Ed Sheeran sued for second time over Marvin Gaye 'rip-off'

The Guardian logo The Guardian 29/06/2018 Laura Snapes

Ed Sheeran has been sued for a second time over allegations that his song Thinking Out Loud rips off Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On.

A company called Structured Asset Sales, which owns part of the copyright of Gaye’s song, is suing Sheeran for $100m (£76.4m), alleging that his 2014 single copies “the melody, rhythms, harmonies, drums, bass line, backing chorus, tempo, syncopation and looping” of Gaye’s 1973 hit.

Structured Asset Sales was founded by the investment banker David Pullman, who in the late 1990s invited musicians to sell off their future income in exchange for money upfront. David Bowie, James Brown and the Isley Brothers were among his clients.

Pullman claims to have done a deal with the son of Gaye’s late co-writer, Ed Townsend Jr, and says he owns a part of the song and therefore a stake in the litigation, reports the Hollywood Reporter. A judge rejected its initial motion for intervention on 11 June. Structured Asset Sales then filed a fresh lawsuit repeating the claim of copyright infringement.

Defendants listed in the new claim include Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Atlantic Records and co-writer Amy Padge. The Guardian has contacted Atlantic for comment.

Ed Sheeran: Thinking Out Loud - video

The suit follows another against Thinking Out Loud filed in August 2016 by the family of Townsend Jr, claiming “the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic: compositions of Thinking are substantially and/or strikingly similar to the drum composition of Let’s”. The BBC reported that it was unclear whether that case has been resolved. Sheeran has segued Thinking Out Loud into Let’s Get It On in concert.

Related: Did Lana Del Rey plagiarise Radiohead? A note-by-note analysis

Thinking Out Loud, which reached No 1 in November 2014, is not the only Sheeran work that has faced legal action over alleged similarities to other songs. In January 2018, songwriters Sean Carey and Beau Golden filed a lawsuit accusing the singer of stealing the melody for their song When I Found You, sung by Australian artist Jasmin Rae, and using it for The Rest of Our Life, which Sheeran wrote for country artists Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. Sheeran responded with court documents denying any similarity between the two songs.

In June 2016, US musicians Martin Harrington and American Thomas Leonard claimed Sheeran’s 2014 single Photograph had the same musical composition as their song Amazing, performed and released by The X Factor winner Matt Cardle in 2012. Sheeran settled the claim, the terms of which were not disclosed. Harrington and Leonard were represented by the lawyer Richard Busch, who successfully sued Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams for copyright infringement over their single Blurred Lines in 2015, winning a $7.4m (£5.1m) settlement.

Marvin Gaye: Let’s Get It On – video

Related: Has pop finally run out of tunes?

The Blurred Lines case has led to many artists crediting minor resemblances in their songs in order to avoid potential lawsuits. In March 2017, two weeks after Sheeran released his third album, ÷, he added three new songwriting credits to his No 1 single Shape Of You, crediting the writing and production team behind TLC’s 1999 single No Scrubs.

Taylor Swiftacknowledged Right Said Fred as co-writers on her 2017 comeback single Look What You Made Me Do, which was said to resemble the British duo’s 1991 single I’m Too Sexy. In 2016, Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig described the granular process of inspiration that led to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs receiving a credit on Beyoncé’s Hold Up, a song he initially wrote with producer Diplo.

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