British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran has emerged victorious in a second copyright lawsuit filed against him in a federal court in Manhattan over alleged similarities between his hit, Thinking Out Loud, and Marvin Gaye’s iconic song Let’s Get It On.
US District Judge Louis Stanton dismissed the case brought forward by Structured Asset Sales LLC, reversing his original ruling that the lawsuit deserved to be heard by a jury.
“It is an unassailable reality that the chord progression and harmonic rhythm in ‘Let’s Get It On’ are so commonplace, in isolation and in combination, that to protect their combination would give Let’s Get It On an impermissible monopoly over a basic musical building block,” Stanton said in handing down the decision.
Stanton is the same judge that presided over a separate case involving the same tracks by Sheeran and Gaye. The jury in that case ruled in favor of Sheeran against the estate of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On.
The latest lawsuit was filed by Structured Assets, which claims to own an 11.11% beneficial interest in the right to receive royalties from the copyright of Let’s Get It On.
Structured Asset Sales’ founder and CEO is investment banker David Pullman, who invented the “Bowie bonds,” a type of asset-backed security that used royalties from music sales and live performances by David Bowie as collateral.
In 2018, Structured Assets sued Sheeran, his label, Warner Music Group, and his music publisher, Sony Music Publishing after Townsend’s estate filed its initial lawsuit against the singer. SAS sought $100 million in damages in that case.
Most recently, Judge Stanton said the combination of chord progression and harmonic rhythm in both Gaye and Sheeran’s songs “are so commonplace” and “a basic musical building block.”
“Let’s Get It On’s chord progression was used at least 29 times before appearing in Let’s Get It On and was in another 23 songs before Thinking Out Loud was released,” Stanton added.
The ruling was “dismissed with prejudice,” meaning that the decision is the final judgment, prohibiting SAS from refiling charges.
Sheeran’s lawyer, Atty. Ilene Farkas, said the decision is “an important victory not only for Ed” and collaborator Amy Wadge, “but for all songwriters and consumers of music,” Reuters reported.
The news outlet said Structured Asset filed another lawsuit against Sheeran, based on its rights to Gaye’s recording, and that case is still pending.
The upcoming jury in the ongoing case will have the opportunity to listen to the original recording of Let’s Get It On, rather than the computerized rendition of the song’s sheet music, which was presented during the previous Townsend trial, Pullman reportedly told Reuters.
“Their biggest fear, in terms of everything they’ve filed, has been to prevent the sound recording from coming in,” Pullman was quoted by Reuters as saying.
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