Ed Sheeran wins copyright case: You will ‘get this with every pop song from now on’

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Last week, Ed Sheeran was in court for the copyright lawsuit that alleged his “Thinking Out Loud” lifted the chord progression from Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” When asked by his lawyer what he’d do if he lost, Ed said he’d be done with music. Well, he won his copyright case like, the next day so I guess he’ll be treating us to more music. Ed sat down with CBS Sunday Morning to talk about the trial and his new album, among other things. He clearly feels vindicated, saying that you can only get caught if you’ve done something wrong, and he talked about chord progressions and the likelihood of commonalities between pop songs.

Ed Sheeran, one of the biggest musical artists on the planet, has spent the past two weeks defending his integrity in a New York City courtroom, fighting a lawsuit in which the family of the co-writer of Marvin Gaye’s classic “Let’s Get It On” claims Sheeran stole the chord progression for his song “Thinking Out Loud.” Sheeran opens up about the trial, his new album, body image, and more in an interview with correspondent Seth Doane for “CBS Sunday Morning” to be broadcast May 7 on CBS and streamed on Paramount+.

Sheeran, who won the New York case Thursday, said that lawsuits are a fact of life for artists today.

“I just think it comes with the territory,” Sheeran told Doane in an interview conducted before the verdict was announced. “When they say, ‘There’s a hit, there’s a writ,’ it’s true. Every single hit.

“There’s four chords that get used in pop songs and there’s however many notes, eight notes or whatever, and there’s 60,000 songs released every single day,” Sheeran said. “And if you just think mathematically the likelihood of this song having the same chords as this song … You are going to get this with every single pop song from now on, like, unless it just stops, which I don’t think it does because it’s a big money business to take things to court.”

Sheeran told Doane it’s a topic that riles him up, and will have an impact throughout the business.

“You can only get caught out if you’ve done something wrong,” Sheeran said. “And I’m not – I have not done something wrong. I’m not lying here. I used four chords that are very common chords to use, and they sound like lots of songs.”

[From CBS Sunday Morning]

So when I read Ed was quitting music if he lost, I felt a little bad for him. (Even though I don’t like him and on the inside I was like is that a promise?) Because it sucks if you become disheartened and quit something you love. But hearing him now that he’s won, I was reminded of how self-righteous he sounded last time he won one of the multiple copyright cases that have been brought against him. Then I went back and re-read the article from last week and I was wrong. “‘If that happens, I’m done, I’m stopping,’ Sheeran said. ‘I find it to be really insulting,’ he added. ‘I work really hard to be where I’m at.’” That second line — that’s not disheartened; that’s flouncing off in a huff because you didn’t get your way. Ugh.

Whether Ed wins or loses his copyright cases, it still seems like he gets sued more frequently than other artists do. And even if there are only so many chord progressions, it does seem like a lot of his stuff sounds very similar to other (usually Black) artists. I don’t know what the solution is here. Something tells me this isn’t the last of these stories about Ed. But for now, he’s enjoying his victory and hopped up on a car for an impromptu performance in NYC after his American Express pop-up. Thank God I can’t afford to live in SoHo because this would have driven me nuts.

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32 Responses to “Ed Sheeran wins copyright case: You will ‘get this with every pop song from now on’”

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  1. aimee says:

    i would also jump on a car and sing if i keep getting lots of people coming out of the woodwork to sue me bc i’m rich and famous. these cases are thrown out bc of what he said…musicologists have already shown that most pop songs are based on 4 chords. this is a win for musicians. ed is not being a d*** nor is he wrong.

    • Tacky says:

      Yes, but Ed’s music is extremely derivative of Black artists.

      • Fortuona says:

        Well the song was 4 chords that Towsend/Gaye lifted from Georgy Girl from 5 years before written by Dusty Springfield’s brother and Jim Dale from the Carry On movies (and the guy who voiced all the Harry Potter books ) that was Oscar and Grammy nominated

      • FameImpala says:

        It’s not even?? It sounds like pop, which is heavily influenced by black artists and sound, absolutely. But also white artists, asian artists, latin american artists, and so on. Ed’s music doesn’t sound more like black artists in particular. What a strange position for this article to have taken.

    • MF says:

      Yes, this is just a fact that most pop songs are based on a handful of chord progressions. It’s not disputable.

      Also, there’s no “if” in “if there are a finite number of chord progressions.” That is also a fact. And yes, of course his music sounds like black artists–they are working with the same tools in the same genre!

    • ChillinginDC says:

      What MF said. If he had lost this, every artist everyone was going to get sued. This was a damn lawsuit to even bring. They were suing over chord progressions.

  2. LeaTheFrench says:

    I don’t know if that’s intentional but his line of defense sort of makes pop music sound formulaic, derivative and generic. “Everybody is using the same chords?” Come on.

    • aimee says:

      they are that derivative. google 4 chords pop songs and there are so many videos explaining this concept. buzzfeed even has an article that is 73 songs you can play with just 4 chords.

    • MF says:

      “sort of makes pop music sound formulaic, derivative and generic.”

      I mean, most of it is formulaic, derivative and generic. I like pop music and I listen to it all the time, but that’s just the truth.

  3. BrainFog 💉💉💉😷 says:

    Imagine being that much in love with yourself that you decide that everywant wants to hear your music so very much and then you climb on a car and cause a traffic jam (I guess). The ego of white men never ceased to amaze me.

    • Torttu says:

      I think nearly every pop star or musician or performer has a massive gigantic ego. They are just wired that way.

  4. BW says:

    There’s a comedian who does a bit about how EVERY song is Pachelbel’s Canon. And then he plays a bunch of songs that all have the same chord progression.

    • Torttu says:

      This was interesting, I looked it up! Thanks!

    • Blithe says:

      Thanks for your post. I just watched a few videos of multiple songs that use the Pachelbel Canon chord progressions, and: had a lightbulb moment that finally made quite a few music theory chats click. Yay!

  5. Solidgold says:

    He could just give credit to sampling the song. Imo, his song sounds exactly like Marvin Gaye’s song. There was no change or inspiration. It sounds like he just wrote some new lyrics over the production!

  6. A says:

    Whose car did he jump on? Is what I wanna know. Imagine trying to sell your car and the dealer asks why there are shoeprints on the roof and you have to be like, ‘Ed Sheeran was so happy he won a lawsuit he ruined this thing’s resale value’

    • Abby B says:

      I literally googled when I saw this clip the first time because I wanted to know if he permanently damaged the roof of that car with all the bubbling it was doing.

  7. Lizzie Bathory says:

    I mean, you don’t have to like Ed, but he’s right about these copyright suits.

    • K.T says:

      It’s so common, there a music industry adage, where this is a hit there’s a writ! Popular music is built on similar phrasings, rhythm and styles. There really are few chords and different genres like country, folk, soul or disco actually thrive by having a pretty distinctive framework. Both is true: black artists have been stolen from historically and regularly treated badly and yet there is also a predatory element to certain high profile music court cases.

  8. Concern Fae says:

    That Black artists have gotten a raw deal from the music industry and these copyright suits over pop songs are bogus can both be true.

    • Jen says:

      I believe this is the correct take 👆🏼

    • Fortuona says:

      If the Black artists are ripping off some white guys which is was Towsend was doing (Georgy Girl) , after ripping of Earth Angel 15 years prior to Lets Get It On was released

  9. CDubz says:

    I’ve always thought that “perfect” is almost an exact copy of the “life every voice and sing”. To the extent that I was humming it at work and people thought I was humming lift every voice and sing.

  10. ariel says:

    Don’t know anything about his music. But he gives me joss whedon vibes – for whatever reason. Can’t get on board.

  11. Rnot says:

    Didn’t he also say that he’s recording every minute of his songwriting process from now on in order to better defend against future claims? There are only a handful of chords just like there are only seven basic stories. People keep independently discovering the same patterns because they work.

  12. Well Wisher says:

    The last time I listened to someone who sounded like soul, I immediately went to the section when the oldies were in Tower Records of formerly 68th Street in NYC; and bought the real thing.

    It was Aretha Franklin, it caused a revival of sorts that lasted until she transitioned.

    That is the solution to watered down version of the real thing.
    Now it is possible to get your fix in gospel – funk, soul, rock&roll; jazz, pop, reggae, parang/soca etc.

    It is a feast for the soul.

    He should have played both songs in front of the jury as he used to do in his
    Hopefully, he’ll leave Marvin’s and the other collaborators song alone.

  13. Ameerah M says:

    He is quite full of himself. And the fact that this keeps coming up for HIM specifically and always with Black artists says a lot. Like a lot white artists who appropriate…yes this WILL keep coming up for you Ed. So try being original.

    • Rackel says:

      He is obviously sitting around listening to other artist and then he writes a song. He needs to start crediting them.
      This reminds me of one of my favorite emo rock band. They had to retire because every song they ever did was a homage. We are talking like 50 songs. Everything was either a lifted beat, rhyme scheme, lyrics or something. The band was basically a cover band but the singer said it was his creation. He even stole artwork but he was a paid cartoonist. They made tons of money but retired when the lawsuits became embarrassing. Japan, Germany, France, Norway lawsuits everywhere.

  14. Nedsdag says:

    I’ll make it brief, but this just proves Mark Twain’s point that there is no such thing as originality.

  15. Vera says:

    I was really hoping that he would lose, and no longer commits such atrocities against music like Galway girl.

  16. FameImpala says:

    The heirs of these artists who have now passed, who live off the talent and achievements of their ancestors, are greedy and lazy in my opinon. You’re not entitled to more money. Get a job like the rest of us, dare I say, like Ed, who works a lot harder than anyone sitting waiting for mailbox money from inheritance.

    • Hello Litty says:

      And his wife; didn’t she study at Duke’s in NC? Aren’t they pretty selective ?