Lawsuit claims Ed Sheeran copied Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’

British singer/songwriter Sheeran will be the defendant in the second recent copyright case over Gaye's music

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The music of Marvin Gaye is as marketable now as it was when he was alive and now one of his songwriters is suing British pop star Ed Sheeran for sampling his sexy classic “Let’s Get It On” without permission.

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The 1973 classic, which is considered one of Gaye’s most iconic hits, was co-written by Ed Townsend. Tuesday, Townsend’s daughter was joined by her attorney and music legend George Clinton of Parliament-Funkadelic outside of Sony Records in Culver City to demand Black artists be properly compensated for their contributions to the industry.

Four years ago Townsend’s family filed a lawsuit accusing Sheeran of copyright infringement for his 2014 song “Thinking Out Loud.” At the time, the musician reportedly responded by claiming the chord progressions and drum patterns for “Let’s Get It On” were so commonplace it made them unable to be protected.

“These offenses aren’t just taking place in the streets against Black individuals in this country. They’re taking place in the boardrooms. They’re taking place in meetings where there’s no representation,” said Keisha Rice, the attorney for Kathryn Townsend.

“Theft and bullying have been the only priority of the record labels’ agenda. It stops today, Sony, Atlantic, and all the rest of them. We’re coming for our 40 acres and a mule plus and interest. And know that we’re not going to be silent. It don’t stop till my casket drop,” warned Townsend.

Clinton echoed the women’s sentiments, explaining, “Theft of the music is the new sharecroppers. Not only do they take the music and the land back, they take the 40 acres and the mule back. They get it all from the money that’s being made from IP (intellectual property). So the artists don’t have a chance. I have 20 artists in my band who never got paid for all those samples you heard.”

In 2018, the Gaye estate won a $5M judgment against Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke for the song “Blurred Lines” which was found to have taken parts of the 1977 Gaye classic “Got To Give It Up.”

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The lawsuit has been filed in the Southern District of New York and has a trial date of Nov. 9. Townsend’s estate is asking for both songwriting credit and a portion of the revenue Sheeran’s song “Thinking Out Loud” has made since it was released in 2014.

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