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Expected testimony by Ed Sheeran in the Marvin Gaye copyright trial involving the 2014 song “Thinking Out Loud”

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In a trial that mashes up Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” with Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” jury selection got under way on Monday.

The heirs of Ed Townsend, who collaborated with Gaye on the 1973 soul smash, filed a lawsuit against Sheeran, claiming the English pop star’s 2014 hit song includes “overt common elements” and “striking similarities” to “Let’s Get It On” that infringe on their copyright.

The 2017 lawsuit has finally reached trial, which Judge Louis L. Stanton, 95, will preside over in his federal courtroom in Manhattan. The trial is anticipated to last up to two weeks.

Although he wasn’t present when the jury selection process began, Sheeran, 32, is one of the witnesses who will likely give a testimony.

Over the past 50 years, “Let’s Get It On” has received hundreds of millions of streams, spins, and radio plays and has been included in various movies, television shows, and commercials. The Grammy-winning song of the year, “Thinking Out Loud,” has a much more marital perspective on love and sex.

Although the jury will most likely listen to both songs’ recordings numerous times, their words and vibes have no bearing on the case in any way. Jurors are instructed to take into account just the basic melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic components of “Let’s Get It On,” as recorded on the sheet music submitted to the USPTO.

The songs’ undeniable structural symmetry, according to Sheeran’s attorneys, simply speaks to the roots of popular music.

“The two songs share versions of a similar and unprotectable chord progression that was freely available to all songwriters,” they claimed in a court filing.

In the case, the Townsend family’s attorneys said that artists like Boyz II Men have mashups of the two songs that are seamless, and even Sheeran has transitioned into ‘Let’s Get It On’ during live performances of ‘Thinking Out Loud’.

They attempted to show the jurors a possibly incriminating YouTube clip of one of Sheeran’s performances during the trial. Stanton rejected their request for it to be included, but he promised to reconsider once he saw the other evidence that had been offered.

Though Gaye’s estate is not a party to the dispute, it will undoubtedly bring to mind their victorious legal battle against Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and T.I. over the similarity between their 2013 hit “Blurred Lines” and Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give it Up.”

It was one of the most significant copyright cases in recent years when a jury awarded Gaye’s heirs $7.4 million at trial, which was ultimately reduced by a judge to $5.3 million.

In the “Thinking Out Loud” case, Sheeran’s record company Atlantic Records and Sony/ATV Music Publishing are also named as defendants. In copyright disputes, plaintiffs typically list a large number of defendants, however a court may strike any names considered offensive. However, Sheeran’s song’s co-writer Amy Wadge went uncredited in this instance.

In addition to writing the 1958 R&B doo-wop classic “For Your Love,” Townsend was also a lawyer and a performer. 2003 saw his passing. His daughter Kathryn Townsend Gryphon is the plaintiff in the case.

Gaye was shot by his father in 1984 at the age of 44 as he attempted to break up a disagreement between his parents. Gaye was already a Motown phenomenon in the 1960s before his more mature work in the 1970s made him a generational musical giant.

Major artists are frequently the target of lawsuits alleging song infringement, but almost all of these cases are resolved before to trial, as Taylor Swift recently did in the case of “Shake it Off,” concluding a case that lasted years longer than most others and got closer to trial than most others.

Sheeran has already demonstrated a willingness to testify in court despite being the focus of copyright disputes due to the influence of vintage soul, pop, and R&B in his songs. Following his victory in a U.K. copyright dispute involving his 2017 hit “Shape of You,” he criticised what he called a “culture” of pointless lawsuits meant to extract money from musicians eager to avoid the expense of going to court.

Sheeran expressed his concerns in a video that was shared on Twitter after the decision. “I feel like claims like this are way too common now and have become a culture where a claim is made with the idea that a settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court, even if there is no basis for the claim,” he said. It’s severely detrimental to the songwriting business.

The “Thinking Out Loud” lawsuit also makes reference to one of the most prevalent themes in American and British music since the beginning of rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, and hip-hop: a young white artist who appears to be appropriating the work of an older Black artist. Similar accusations were made against Elvis Presley and The Beatles, whose music was influenced by Black forebears.

Ben Crump, a civil rights lawyer who represents the Townsend family but is not engaged in the trial, stated at a news conference on March 31 that “Mr. Sheeran blatantly took a Black artist’s music who he does not view as worthy of compensation.”

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