In the aftermath of the Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke ‘Blurred Lines’ lawsuit, over 200 artists clubbed together to support them – sensing the potential for similar actions.
And, the judge in that case might just’ve been correct when he said that Marvin Gaye’s family had ultimately been successful in ‘copyrighting a musical style’.
Now, Sheeran’s being sued for the third time since 2016 for allegedly ‘ripping off’ Gaye’s biggest hit, ‘Let’s Get It On’. He’s accused of copying and exploiting the song for his single ‘Thinking Out Loud’, along with co-writer Amy Wadge.
While it was Gaye’s family that brought the ‘Blurred Lines’ claim, this time it’s an investment banker – David Pullman and Structured Asset Sales – who owns a third of the rights to ‘Let’s Get It On’. Mr Pullman made his name in 1997 with the sale of ‘Bowie Bonds’, and knows how to exploit a commercial opportunity from royalties.
Sheeran’s no stranger to copyright disputes. Last year, he settled a dispute over his hit song ‘Photograph’, after he was accused of copying a track called ‘Amazing’, ‘note for note’. Interestingly, the writers in that case were represented by the same lawyer who represented the Gaye family in the Blurred Lines case. More recently, Sheeran also brought action against musician Sam Chokri. Chokri had prevented Sheeran’s royalty payments for the song ‘Shape of You’, after winning a ruling from the Performing Rights Society (who determines royalty payments) that the song copied Chokri’s track ‘Oh Why’.
These latest actions are a reminder of the hurdles musicians can face when protecting their copyright, especially as revenue streams increase. Technology in music means that, with more singers and songwriters using common chord patterns, the lines of originality are easily blurred.
For more information or help with your intellectual property, get in touch with our intellectual property team.