The unanimous verdict was reached Thursday, on the second day of deliberations.
As the New York jury answered the single question of whether Sheeran proved he didn’t infringe upon the copyright in the affirmative, the crooner briefly put his hands over his face in relief before standing and hugging his lawyer.
The family of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote Let’s Get It On with Gaye, accused Sheeran of copying the 1973 hit in his smash single Thinking Out Loud. The lawsuit claimed Sheeran, 32, and his co-writer, Amy Wadge, knowingly plagiarized the song’s iconic four-chord sequence.
Sheeran staunchly denied copying the song, and at one point in the trial played an acoustic guitar for the jurors while explaining that Wadge developed the song’s opening chord progression.
Earlier in the trial, which began April 25, lawyers for the Townsend heirs showed the jury what they said was “a smoking gun” that proved Sheeran copied the song — a concert video of a live mashup performance in which he sang both songs. Townsend lawyer Ben Crump said the performance was “a confession” of plagiarism.
During his initial testimony last week, Sheeran denied the video is proof and said it is “quite simple to weave in and out of songs” if they are in the same key.
“I’d be an idiot to stand on a stage in front of 20,000 people and do that,” Sheeran said of blatant plagiarism. “Most pop songs can fit over most pop songs.”
Sheeran’s song, which came out in 2014, was a hit, winning a Grammy for song of the year. His lawyers argued that the songs shared versions of a similar and unprotectable chord progression freely available to all songwriters.
While on the stand, Sheeran, was asked by his lawyer, Ilene Farkas, what he would do if he were to lose the lawsuit.
Sheeran’s answer was simple: “If that happens, I’m done, I’m stopping.”
The singer called the lawsuit “really insulting.”
“I work really hard to be where I’m at,” he told the jury.
This trial comes one year after Sheeran won a similar copyright lawsuit over his biggest hit, Shape of You. At the time, Sheeran called the lawsuit “really damaging to the songwriting industry.”
Earlier in 2017, Sheeran settled out of court over claims that his song Photograph shared striking similarities to the Matt Cardle song Amazing. He has since said he regrets the settlement because it opened the “floodgates” for more bogus copyright claims.
— With files from The Associated Press
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