Ed Sheeran puts musicologists in overdrive as copyright counteroffensive continues

Photo credit: Harald Krichel / CC from 3.0

As Marvin Gaye’s copyright infringement trial against Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” continues, Sheeran has some telling words about a musicologist who testified against him last week.

Ed Sheeran isn’t particularly pleased about a musicologist who testified against him in the Marvin Gaye copyright infringement trial. Musicologist Alexander Stewart testified for the Ed Townsend estate last week, who has accused Sheeran of using parts of Marvin Gaye’s classic Let’s Get It On (which Townsend co-wrote) for his 2014 hit Thinking Out Loud.

“I think what he’s doing here is criminal,” said the singer-songwriter Court earlier this week. “I don’t know why he’s allowed to be an expert.”

Stewart’s job was to prove to the jury that “Let’s Get It On” and “Thinking Out Loud” are sufficiently similar to constitute copyright infringement. Sheeran’s defense team has called in its own expert, who claims that at least thirteen other sample songs use the same chord progression used in Gaye and Sheeran’s works — all from before “Let’s Get It On.”

During his testimony last week, Stewart played a computer-generated version of the Gaye song to the court to show the similarities to Sheeran’s song. This week, Sheeran performed guitar in hand to demonstrate the pervasiveness of this chord progression in popular music. He also accused Stewart of misrepresenting his song to confuse the jury with a “horrible performance”.

“I know he’s wrong because I wrote it myself,” said Sheeran, 32.

“The two songs share versions of a similar and unprotected chord progression that was freely available to all songwriters,” Sheeran’s attorneys said in a court filing.

Ed Sheeran has faced allegations of copyright infringement in the past. The singer-songwriter won a previous lawsuit in the UK over his song “Shape of You” in 2017.

“I feel that claims like this are far too common now and have evolved into a culture where claims are made with the idea that a settlement is cheaper than going to court, even if there is no basis for it the claim,” Sheeran said in a video posted to Twitter at the time of the UK lawsuit. “It’s really detrimental to the songwriting industry.”

The US trial for Thinking Out Loud began April 24 with jury selection and is expected to last two weeks.