Sheeran faces R1.4bn suit for ‘copy­ing song’

Pretoria News Weekend - - NEWS - REUTERS Ed Sheeran

NEW YORK: English singer and song­writer Ed Sheeran was sued on Thurs­day for at least $100 mil­lion (R1.4 bil­lion) for al­legedly copy­ing large parts of Marvin Gaye’s clas­sic Let’s Get It On for his smash hit Think­ing Out Loud.

The law­suit was filed by a com­pany owned by David Pull­man, an in­vest­ment banker who in 1997 ar­ranged the pi­o­neer­ing $55m sale of “Bowie Bonds”, which made David Bowie the first mu­si­cian to sell bonds backed by roy­al­ties from his cat­a­logue.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint filed in Man­hat­tan fed­eral court, Think­ing Out Loud, which peaked at No 2 on the Bill­board Hot 100 in Fe­bru­ary 2015, copies the “melody, rhythms, har­monies, drums, bass line, back­ing cho­rus, tempo, syn­co­pa­tion and loop­ing” of Let’s Get It On, which hit No 1 in Septem­ber 1973.

Other de­fen­dants in­clude Sony/ATV Mu­sic Pub­lish­ing and the At­lantic record la­bel.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for Sheeran and At­lantic did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment. Sony/ATV spokesper­son Paul Wil­liams de­clined to com­ment.

Sheeran, 27, has faced in­fringe­ment claims over other songs, in­clud­ing Photograph and Shape of You.

Gaye was fa­tally shot by his fa­ther in 1984 at the age of 44.

On March 21, a fed­eral ap­peals court up­held a $5.3m judg­ment for Gaye’s fam­ily against Robin Thicke and Phar­rell Wil­liams for copy­ing from an­other of his songs, 1977’s Got to Give It Up, for their 2013 smash Blurred Lines.

Pull­man, 56, in­vests in mu­sic, en­ter­tain­ment and other in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty as­sets, and se­cu­ri­tises some of them.

In an in­ter­view, Pull­man said peo­ple in­ter­viewed for news cov­er­age about Blurred Lines noted sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween Let’s Get It On and Think­ing Out Loud.

He said three mu­si­col­o­gists com­pared the songs in­de­pen­dently and found them “sub­stan­tially or strik­ingly sim­i­lar”, a le­gal stan­dard used to de­ter­mine in­fringe­ment. “We wanted to do ev­ery­thing right in terms of the de­tail,” he said.

Other record­ing artists to face copy­right claims in re­cent years have in­cluded Mi­ley Cyrus, Drake, Ken­drick La­mar, Led Zep­pelin and Madonna.

While many cases are set­tled or dis­missed, Pull­man said artists should not wait un­til af­ter their songs be­come hits to get nec­es­sary per­mis­sions.

● Sheeran will be in South Africa in March. Tick­ets for shows, one in Joburg on March 23, and one in Cape Town on March 27, sold out in record time, and a sec­ond con­cert has been an­nounced at FNB Sta­dium in Joburg for March 24.

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