The track’s producer Jake Gosling and co-writer Amy Wadge – along with independent publishers Bucks Music and BDi Music – are also named in the suit, filed by the heirs of Let’s Get It On co-writer Ed Townsend.
Sheeran’s own label, Gingerbread Man Records – a joint venture with Warner Music UK – is an additional defendant.
The suit alleges willful infringement by Sheeran and his team, and is seeking actual damages based on the profits of the song – which would run into millions of dollars.
MBW has uncovered the court document filed by Townsend’s heirs in the Southern District of New York Court yesterday (August 9).
It names both Sheeran and his industry team behind Thinking Out Loud – which won a best pop solo performance at this year’s Grammys – as defendants.
“The harmonic progressions, melodic and rhythmic elements, as observed in Let’s have made [it] one of the most well-known and instantly recognisable songs in R&B history,” reads the suit.
“[Ed Sheeran] copied the ‘heart’ of Let’s Get It On and repeated it continuously throughout thinking out loud.”
Ed Townsend Lawsuit
“These elements… are the ‘heart’ or qualitatively, the most important elements of the song as indicated by critical acclaim.”
The plaintiffs are asking for an injunction preventing Sheeran from performing the song, plus “actual damages and defendants’ profits attributable to the infringement”, or “statutory damages under the Copyright Act”.
The lawsuit goes on to allege that Sheeran had “increased access to Let’s [Get It On] because both songs are administered through Sony/ATV” – and that Sheeran and his co-defendants “copied the ‘heart’ of Let’s [Get It On] and repeated it continuously throughout Thinking [Out Loud]”.
It continues: “The melodic, harmonic and rhythmic compositions in Thinking are not the product of independent creation… [they] are substantially and/or strikingly similar to the drum composition from Let’s.”
The suit claims that the defendants were notified of the alleged infringement in mid-April last year.
Ed Townsend’s heirs say that they have been “irreparably harmed [and] suffered damage” and that the defendants have “profited in an amount to be determined at trial”.
Thinking Out Loud has reached No.1 in eleven countries worldwide since it was released in September 2014.
It has sold more than 1m copies in the US alone – and clocked up more than 1bn plays on YouTube.
In the UK, the record is one of the bestselling tracks of all time, shifting more than 2m copies.
The Let’s Get It On lawsuit arrives a year-and-a-half after a landmark copyright case in the US, which saw Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams adjudged to have infringed Marvin Gaye’s Got To Give It Up with their hit Blurred Lines.
The duo were ordered to pay the estate of Marvin Gaye US $7.3m (€6.8m) for copyright infringement.Music Business Worldwide