Barely two weeks after Pharrell and Robin Thicke were ordered to pay $5 million to the Gaye estate for infringing on Got to give up, it seems that the legal hassle around Marvin Gaye hasn’t died down. In fact, the heirs of the estate of Gaye’s Let’s get it on co-writer are suing Sheeran for plagiarism. Although Sheeran asked the Judge to dismiss the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge stated he found enough similarities between Let’s get it on and Thinking out loud to let a jury determine Sheeran’s liability.
According to the Judge, there are sufficient similar elements between the two songs. According to Billboard.com, he particularly mentioned the songs’ harmonic progressions, harmonic rhythms, melodies, percussion and bass lines. The Judge said “although the two compositions are not identical, an average lay observer could conclude that parts of Thinking out loud were appropriated from Let’s get it on.” With at least two other lawsuits pending against Sheeran, one of them being a $100 million infringement claim, 2019 is set to become a busy year for Sheeran. Last year, he already had to give up partial ownership of his hit song Photograph.
YouTuber Rick Beato released a video in which he transposed Let’s get it on (which originally is in Eb major) to Thinking out Loud‘s key, which is D major. One can hear that once transposed, the songs sound very similar. The tempo is the same, the chord progressions are practically the same and the groove is identical. Drums and basslines sound very much like Let’s get it on, Beato states. He then highlights the “completely different” part of Thinking out loud‘s chorus and its different melodies. You can check his analysis below.
Copyrighting a musical style
Not everyone agrees with the U.S. District Judge. Regarding the Blurred lines case, a dissenting judge wrote: “the majority allows the Gayes what no one has before: copyright a musical style. Blurred lines and Got to give it up are not objectively similar. They differ in melody, harmony, and rhythm. Yet by refusing to compare the two works, the majority establishes a dangerous precedent that strikes a devastating blow to future musicians and composers everywhere”. She goes on with saying “they [Gaye’s estate] own copyrights in many musical works, each of which now potentially infringes the copyright of any famous song that preceded it.”
What do you think? Is Thinking out loud a blatant ripoff or is there more to decide whether plagiarism applies? You be the judge.