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Ed Sheeran Wins ‘Thinking Out Loud’ copyright case

4th September 2023 by Tiff Elmer

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In a major victory for songwriters, Ed Sheeran has been cleared of copyright infringement in a case that could have had a chilling effect on creativity in the music industry.

The case, which was brought by the estate of Marvin Gaye, alleged that Sheeran’s 2014 hit “Thinking Out Loud” copied the melody of Gaye’s 1973 classic “Let’s Get It On.” However, after a five-week trial in New York, a jury found in Sheeran’s favour, ruling that the two songs were not substantially similar.

The verdict is a major win for Sheeran, who has been one of the most successful artists in the world in recent years. It is also a victory for songwriters, who have been increasingly concerned about the threat of copyright infringement lawsuits.

The case was closely watched by the music industry, as it had the potential to set a precedent for future copyright cases. The jury’s decision was based on a complex legal analysis, but it ultimately boiled down to whether the two songs shared enough similarities to be considered substantially similar.

In the end, the jury found that the two songs were not substantially similar, even though they shared some similarities in terms of their melody and chord progression. The jury was persuaded by Sheeran’s testimony, in which he denied copying Gaye’s song and explained how he came up with the melody for “Thinking Out Loud.”

The verdict is a relief for Sheeran, but it is also a victory for songwriters everywhere. It sends a message that copyright infringement lawsuits will not be successful unless there is clear evidence of copying. This is important for songwriters, who need to be able to freely express themselves without fear of being sued.

The case also raises important questions about the future of copyright law in the music industry. As technology makes it easier to create and share music, the risk of copyright infringement lawsuits is increasing. However, the verdict in the Sheeran case suggests that the law will not protect songs that are simply similar in some respects. Instead, copyright law will only protect songs that are substantially similar, which means that they share a significant amount of material that is protected by copyright.

The verdict in the Sheeran case is a major victory for songwriters, but it is not the end of the story. The music industry is constantly evolving, and copyright law will need to evolve with it. The verdict in this case is a positive step in the right direction, and it should help to protect the creative freedom of songwriters.

If you want to know more about the above or copyright generally, please contact Tiff Elmer at or on 01202 377814.


Tiff Elmer

Solicitor — Corporate and Commercial

Direct dial: 01202 377814


Tiff joined Laceys in July 2021 as a paralegal and qualified as a Solicitor in 2023 deciding to specialise in Corporate and Commercial law. Tiff has relocated back home to Bournemouth after living in Bristol for four years where she completed her LPC at the University of Law, and worked in a large commercial law firm as a trade mark paralegal. Before moving to Bristol, Tiff completed her Law LLB Hons degree at Southampton Solent University in 2016 graduating with a 1st.

Tiff has particular experience in intellectual property law and assists her team to advise a range of businesses in various sectors in relation to intellectual property matters and commercial contracts, and is enjoying expanding her knowledge and skills within the commercial field. 

Outside of work Tiff enjoys being outdoors by going for long runs, hikes and paddle boarding around the beautiful South Coast with family and friends.

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