Ed sheeran vs. marvin gaye lawsuit: let's compare!

Discussion in 'Composition, Orchestration & Technique' started by fiestared, Mar 14, 2019.

  1. Polkasound

    Polkasound Senior Member

    Apr 20, 2016
    Milwaukee, WI
    I don't think proof of intent would change a verdict, but it certainly could have an effect on the judgement for damages.

    I agree that establishing a universal line is impossible, but I think it can be done on a case-by-case basis. Legal precedents that push copyright protection beyond melody and words, in my opinion, are a necessary evil needed to protect songwriters and publishers. The downside is that such precedents could result in mountains of future lawsuits tying up the court system as millionaire artists frivolously sue other millionaire artists, each trying to move that line in their favor.

    I would love to be a fly on the wall in the courtroom to hear both sides. They're no doubt going to bring up all the points you made.

    In case Ed's defense could use a little ammo, I would urge them to look at the music I play... Slovenian-style polka music. Even though there are many hundreds of polkas in existence being performed and recorded by artists like me, almost every song shares the same beat, tempo, and instrumentation. Many share the same chord progressions and song structure. Their only differences are in the melodies, and even then, some songs have melodies that are so strikingly similar to other songs that any juror pulled off the street would declare them to be the same song. But in polka music, this is the norm.

    Unlike Slovenian-style polkas which conform to accepted similarities, Sheeran's and Gaye's songs are both soulful pop ballads. Such ballads should be allowed to share similar-sounding elements, whether they are chord progressions, instrumentation, tempo, syncopation, etc. but in my opinion, since soulful ballads are not a specific subgenre of music, they shouldn't share so many of these elements simultaneously that they literally sound like the same song.

    Regarding greed, I think it's possible that the owners of "Let's Get it On" might be in it for the money. Just about every lawsuit of this nature is a money-grab in my opinion. But I do believe legal recourse is warranted in this particular case.
  2. James H

    James H 01001000 01101001

    Dec 20, 2018
    Funny how these cases only pop up when millions are involved. Greed is an awful thing.

    But I'm sure the "lawsuit was brought by the estate and heirs of late producer Ed Townsend" have music's best intentions at heart. Bless them
    dzilizzi and MartinH. like this.
  3. TigerTheFrog

    TigerTheFrog I'm supposed to be working now.

    Nov 18, 2016
    Brooklyn, NY
    I think this is kind of the same thing. Different lyrics, different melodies, just a few chords. Totally different songs. And I like Mazzy Starr and obviously Dylan didn't give a shit. But I remember listening to "Fade Into You" and thinking, "man, I would never have the nerve to do that. It always sounded to me like somebody was jamming to a Dylan classic and wrote a really good original song to it.

  4. Polkasound

    Polkasound Senior Member

    Apr 20, 2016
    Milwaukee, WI
    But we don't know what, if anything, may have transpired prior to the lawsuit. There's always the possibility that Townsend's estate originally approached Sheeran seeking a pittance of the song's proceeds in lieu of a lawsuit, and instead of considering the offer, Sheeran replied with, "F*** you! Sue me!" We simply don't know.

    If Mazzy Star wrote the song in 4/4 instead of 6/8, changed the 6th chord in the song from a B minor to a D major, and added background oohs and ahs, I think Bob Dylan would have made a phone call.
    TigerTheFrog likes this.
  5. dzilizzi

    dzilizzi I know nothing

    Feb 27, 2017
    Somewhere near Los Angeles
    Based on the Stairway to Heaven lawsuit, they just need to show they might have heard it? I don't know that it worked though.
    whiskers likes this.
  6. dflood

    dflood Active Member

    Jun 14, 2017
    Incidently, that song is named ‘Beg, Steal or Borrow’. ;)
    dzilizzi likes this.
  7. GtrString

    GtrString Active Member

    Dec 10, 2016
    I think the Marvin Gaye estate speculate in the fact that there are very few good entertainment lawyers in the world. And if they get to court, layman votes can be tricked into considering similarities in chords, instrumentation and such. But the only copyrightable parts of a song is melody (including signature hooks) and lyrics.
    dzilizzi likes this.
  8. toomanynotes

    toomanynotes Active Member

    Jul 8, 2012
    well it makes me feel constipated.
  9. robgb

    robgb I was young once

    Apr 6, 2016
    It's clear to me that these days all you need is the same or similar chord progression and a musically stunted jury and a lot of idiotic youtubers will call it theft. There is a REASON that the only thing you can copyright is melody. Why lawyers don't pound this into the ground in court and show examples of isolated melodies only is beyond me.
  10. storyteller

    storyteller Senior Member

    Dec 26, 2015
    As a lover of music, prior to reading about this suit, I never once considered I was hearing any part of Let’s Get It On when Ed Sheeran’s song was playing. However, there are hundreds of other songs that I could say “that sounds like _______.” Funny world.
    dzilizzi likes this.
  11. halfwalk

    halfwalk Member

    May 13, 2017
    Because that would be boring and nobody would make sensational, uninformed youtube videos about it. Show biz, baby.

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