Larry Iser contributed two guest posts to Forbes about Ed Sheeran’s recent copyright case, first exmaining the ongoing trial over alleged copyright infringement between Sheeran’s song “Thinking Out Loud” and the 1973 soul classic, “Let’s Get It On” (written by Marvin Gaye and producing partner Ed Townsend) and then analyzing the decision, which came down in favor of Sheeran, and what it means for other musicians.
When Townsend’s heirs brought suit against Sheeran over “Thinking Out Loud,” which allegedly copied the chord progressions of “Let’s Get It On,” the outcome of the trial was expected to have significant ramifications for artists and copyright holders alike. If Sheeran was found to have been infringing upon the song’s copyright, it could have set a precedent for a copyright holder to have full ownership of fundamental music elements, allowing holders of older work to stake claims in chord progressions, harmonies, and rhythmic patterns.
According to Larry, “This would only add friction to music development, scaring smaller artists from releasing music, incentivizing publishers and labels to claim to all they can, and leaving those partnered with publishers and labels in control of core music elements that were thought to be foundational and part of the public domain.”
After Sheeran emerged from the trial victorious, Larry shared that “Unfortunately, being the overly litigious society that we are, it is unlikely that Sheeran’s verdict will completely stem the tide of copyright lawsuits claiming ownership of basic elements of music composition. But for now, this verdict will go down in history as a win for musicians and creators who bring joy to our lives with their talents.”
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