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Ed Sheeran copyright trial: Star says other singers are cheering him on | Ents & Arts News

Ed Sheeran says he has received encouragement from other singers, as he faces the second week of a copyright trial alleging he ripped off iconic Marvin Gaye hit Let’s Get It On in his song Thinking Out Loud.

The 32-year-old star, who denies copying the hit 1973 soul track which was written by Marvin Gaye and Ed Townsend, has so far spent two days in the witness box at the Manhattan federal courtroom in New York.

Sheeran said he has heard from other singers since the trial began last week because they share his worries about litigation resulting from their own songwriting.

The Suffolk-born star did not identify who the singers in question were, but said they are cheering him on – grateful that he is standing up against what all songwriters view as a threat to their work.

“When you write songs, somebody comes after you,” Sheeran said.

He has so far offered a spirited defence of his work, and both sung and played the guitar for the Manhattan courtroom.

In the first week of the trial, Sheeran gave a brief mini-performance of his hit Thinking Out Loud, which reached number one in 2014 in more than a dozen countries, including the UK, US and Ireland.

The prolific artist has said he uses his own version of phonetics to create songs quickly, saying he is able to write up to nine songs a day.

The trial stems from a lawsuit filed by Townsend’s daughter – Kathryn Townsend Griffin – several years ago, seeking unspecified damages.

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Ed Sheeran leaves US court

A video clip, filmed at a concert in Zurich, in which Sheeran can be heard segueing on stage between Let’s Get It On and Thinking Out Loud, was described as a “smoking gun” by Townsend’s lawyer during opening statements.

Sheeran has said he uses “mashups” (switching from his song to somebody else’s and back again) to “spice it up a bit” during concerts, generally choosing songs that utilised similar chords.

He also told the court that Thinking Out Loud had been previously referred to as “the Van Morrison song” by his record label, calling the Northern Irish singer “one of the most important influences in my life”.

Sheeran, who didn’t attempt to hide his irritation during cross-examination, has said he finds it “insulting” that he is being accused of stealing other people’s songs.

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Last year, Sheeran won his High Court copyright trial against two songwriters who claimed he ripped off part of one of their songs for his huge 2017 hit Shape Of You.

At the time, Sheeran said such copyright claims were “way too common” and “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 such cases were “really damaging to the songwriting industry”.

The trial, which is expected to last two weeks, continues.

Ed Sheeran takes stand at New York civil trial accused of copying Marvin Gaye classic | Ents & Arts News

British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran has taken the stand at the beginning of a civil trial in Manhattan alleging his hit “Thinking Out Loud” ripped off the classic Marvin Gaye tune “Let’s Get It On”.

Descendants of Ed Townsend, Gaye’s co-writer on the 1973 hit, claim Sheeran, his label Warner Music Group, and music publisher Sony Music Publishing owe them a share of the profits for allegedly copying the song.

The copyright infringement trial in Manhattan, New York, is the first of three Sheeran could face from lawsuits over similarities between the two hits.

Under questioning from Keisha Rice, a lawyer for Mr Townsend’s descendants, Sheeran was asked about a song of his, “Take It Back,” which contains the lyric “plagiarism is hidden”.

“Those are my lyrics, yep,” said Sheeran, wearing a black suit and light blue tie. “Can I give some context to them?”

Rice said if she needed more context, she would ask.

She then asked Sheeran, 32, about a video clip of a show in which he performed Gaye’s song live as a medley with “Thinking Out Loud”.

Ben Crump, another lawyer for the Townsend’s descendants, had earlier said the performance amounted to a confession by Sheeran.

“We have a smoking gun,” he said of the concert footage showing Sheeran flipping between the two songs.

Mr Crump said the case is about “giving credit where credit is due”.

Sheeran said he sometimes mashed up songs with similar chords at his gigs, but grew frustrated when Rice cut off his
response.

“I feel like you don’t want me to answer because you know that what I’m going to say is actually going to make quite a lot of sense,” he said.

Read more:
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Kathryn Townsend Griffin, center, daughter of singer and songwriter Ed Townsend, speaks outside New York Federal Court before the start of the trial. Pic: AP
Image:
Kathryn Townsend Griffin, center, daughter of singer and songwriter Ed Townsend, speaks outside New York Federal Court before the start of the trial. Pic: AP

Sheeran’s lawyer, Ilene Farkas, earlier said the two songs are distinct and told jurors that the plaintiffs should not be allowed to “monopolise” a chord progression and melody that are used in countless songs.

“No one owns basic musical building blocks,” Farkas said.

“You could go from ‘Let it Be’ to ‘No Woman, No Cry’ and switch back,” Sheeran testified, referring to the Beatles and
Bob Marley classics.

“If I had done what you’re accusing me of doing, I’d be a quite an idiot to stand on a stage in front of 20,000 people and do that.”

If the jury finds Sheeran liable for copyright infringement, the trial will enter a second phase to determine how much he and his labels owe in damages.

The first trial is expected to last about a week.

Townsend, who also wrote the 1958 R&B doo-wop hit For Your Love, was a singer, songwriter and lawyer.

He died in 2003.

His daughter, Kathryn Townsend Griffin, is the plaintiff leading the case.