Ed Sheeran wins copyright lawsuit — so he's not giving up on music after all

Ed Sheeran has been found not liable for copyright infringement of "Thinking Out Loud" after a structured asset sale company claimed he stole key elements of Marvin Gaye's 2014 Grammy-winning song "Let's Get It On." After a two-week trial, a jury ruled on May 4 that Sheeran did not infringe on the song's copyright protection and that he co-wrote it with collaborator Amy Wadge independently of Gay Yi's 1973 song.

"I feel like the truth was heard and the truth was believed," Sheeran, 32, told People after the verdict was announced. "It's great that we can all get on with our lives now - but it's a shame things have to come to this." Sheeran said days ago that he would retire from music if he didn't win the lawsuit. "If that happens, I'm done and I'm going to stop," Sheeran told the court when asked whether the decision was in his favour. "I find it really insulting. I've worked really hard to get to where I am now."

Structured Asset Sale, which owns a one-third stake in the songs of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote "Let's Get It On" with Gaye, filed a lawsuit in 2017 alleging Sheeran was directly involved in the production of the 1970s hit. The court case focuses on how certain chord progressions and elements of popular music are owned by one artist or entity, or are freely available to others. In the past few years, this has been a difficult concept to navigate. Artists including Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Robin Thicke and Pharrell have faced similar accusations.

One argument in favor of the structured asset sale is that Sheeran mashed the two songs together during a show in Zurich in 2014, arguing it was a "smoking gun" in the case. "I do a lot of mash-ups of songs at a lot of shows. A lot of the songs have similar chords. You can go from 'Let It Be' to 'Women Don't Cry' and back again," Sheeran told the court. "Frankly, if I did what you're accusing me of doing, I would be an idiot to stand on a stage and do that in front of 20,000 people."

"When you write a song, you have people following you," Sheeran explained during his testimony. During the trial, Sheeran even performed "Thinking Out Loud" for jurors in the courtroom.

In 2022, Sheeran was involved in another copyright infringement case for the song "Shape Of You". Sami Chokri and Ross O'Donoghue accused Sheeran of plagiarizing their 2015 song "Oh Why." It was ultimately ruled that Sheeran "neither knowingly nor unknowingly plagiarized" the song.

“Pop music uses so many notes and so few chords,” Sheeran said in an Instagram video after winning the case in 2022. "If 60,000 songs are released on Spotify every day, coincidences are bound to happen."