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Could Ed Sheeran’s Copyright Win Change Landscape of Music Lawsuits? – The Hollywood Reporter



When a jury decided “Blurred Lines” borrowed from Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” and Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke have been ordered to pay thousands and thousands of {dollars} in damages, it not solely shook up the music trade but additionally set off a flurry of different lawsuits that made songwriters extra keen to present credit score, whether or not it was due or not.

After the 2015 determination, John Legend argued that the decision would set a nasty precedent for artists creating music impressed by others. It definitely set a precedent for authorized motion as different veteran songwriters determined to go after hitmakers they felt have been just a little too impressed by their work. Some went to trial, others settled outdoors the courtroom and quite a lot of artists started extending writing credit score to older songs — some as a result of the melodies have been related however others to keep away from a repeat of the “Blurred Lines” backlash.

However Ed Sheeran’s win final week — a jury stated his hit “Thinking Out Loud” didn’t steal key parts of Gaye’s basic “Let’s Get It On” — may change the narrative.

“In this particular situation, I think the verdict was right. At some point there are only so many chords or notes you can play. I’m happy with the verdict because it [lets] songwriters [know] that if something small sounds similar, you won’t have to pay for copying something that you really didn’t copy,” Johnta Austin, the Grammy-winning songwriter behind hits like Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together” and Mary J. Blige’s “Be Without You,” tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars named the writers of the Hole Band’s “Ooops Upside Your Head” as co-writers of the anthemic “Uptown Funk,” Billboard’s No. 1 music of the final decade. The Chainsmokers’ smash “Closer” — No. 3 on that Billboard checklist — gave writing credit score to Isaac Slade and Joe King of The Fray due to commonalities to the rock band’s hit “Over My Head (Cable Car).” And Sam Smith’s Grammy-winning debut hit, “Stay With Me,” added Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne as co-writers due to comparisons to the previous’s “I Won’t Back Down.” 

Sheeran’s eight-year battle was over, however the English celebrity let the world know nobody left the trial as actual winners. “We need to be able to write our original music and engage in independent creation without worrying at every step of the way that such creativity will be wrongly called into question,” he stated.

“These chords are common building blocks which were used to create music long before ‘Let’s Get It On’ was written and will be used to make music long after we are all gone,” he stated. “They are a songwriter’s ‘alphabet’ — our tool kit and should be there for us all to use. No one owns them or the way they are played, in the same way, nobody owns the color blue.”

Sean Garrett, the Grammy-nominated songwriter-producer behind hits for Beyoncé, Usher and Chris Brown, says Sheeran’s win is nice for the trade, however the music group remains to be rattled.

“I think the lines are blurred, for sure,” Garrett says. 

“I think the score is 1-1 now,” he explains about Thicke’s loss and Sheeran’s win. “I don’t think that we are more clear. I don’t think [this new win] brought clarity. I still feel that it’s case-by-case, unfortunately. That’s the part that’s scary.”

Sean Garrett

Marcus Ingram/Getty Pictures

Garrett says he was super-emotional when “Blurred Lines” misplaced thousands and thousands of {dollars} in courtroom. He felt creators have been being restricted and restricted and needed to make music from a fearful place.

“That was a sad moment for me. I felt like, creatively, you’re really just trying to make great music,” he says. “I tend to really respect Ed Sheeran and Pharrell as creatives and they’re super-talented. They don’t really have to borrow from anyone. They’re just that talented.”

He provides, “I felt like it was a loss. It wasn’t a good day for music. You want to make music from your heart. You want to make music to make people feel good. You don’t want to make music and feel scared or feel like you’re worried about a lawsuit. It just takes the beauty out of music.”

Johnta Austin

Johnta Austin

Prince Williams/Wireimage

Austin remembers being in Sheeran’s sneakers when a singer claimed components of her music have been lifted to create Carey’s upbeat 2005 jam “It’s Like That,” which he co-wrote with the pop diva, Jermaine Dupri and Manuel Seal. The group needed to “turn over our laptops and everything to prove that we never visited this person’s page or website,” Austin remembers.

“It never went to trial. It didn’t get past a certain stage. But they accused us. And we didn’t borrow from it, so we were in the clear,” he explains.

“We’ve always credited inspiration that we’ve taken verbatim. When you look at ‘We Belong Together’ and all of the writers that we credited when we used one line,” he added of Carey’s No. 1 music, which interpolates lyrics from Bobby Womack’s “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” and “Two Occasions” by the Deele. 

“When you’re sued and you know that you didn’t do it and you’re accused of something that you know didn’t do, it’s like, ‘Come on guys.’”

However this wasn’t Sheeran’s first courtroom case about allegedly stealing music. The singer, together with Tim McGraw and Religion Hill, settled a copyright lawsuit claiming that their music “The Rest of Our Life” was a rip-off of a music by two Australian songwriters known as “When I Found You.” Sheeran additionally gained a copyright battle over his megahit “Shape of You” when a choose dominated he didn’t plagiarize one other music that claimed Sheeran’s hook was much like a music he created.

Kandi Burruss

Kandi Burruss


Kandi Burruss — the Xscape band member and star of The Actual Housewives of Atlanta who has written songs for Future’s Little one, ‘N Sync and Pink — has a writing credit on “Shape of You” because it borrows from TLC’s popular culture smash “No Scrubs,” which Burruss gained a Grammy for co-writing. However she says they needed to work out the logistics with Sheeran’s group after the music was launched.

“With ‘Shape of You,’ they reached out to us during the process of him recording the album. We discussed the split or whatever, and then we just didn’t hear anything else about it. But then the song came out and we were like, ‘Oh,’” Burruss remembers. “After we didn’t settle on anything, we thought, ‘OK, well maybe he’s not going to use the song.’”

The 2 events acquired in contact after the music got here out. “And we were like, ‘Oh, OK. Thank you,’” a smiling Burruss says after incomes credit score on the observe, which ranks third on Billboard’s decade-end chart.

The current lawsuit towards Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” was filed by the heirs of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote “Let’s Get It On” with Gaye. The 2 sides argued over the songs sharing an identical syncopated chord sample, which Townsend’s household known as the “heart” of “Let’s Get It On.” Sheeran’s attorneys stated the similarities have been commonplace musical constructing blocks which might be additionally a part of different songs presently obtainable, and the jury discovered that Sheeran and co-writer Amy Wadge created “Thinking Out Loud” independently.

“If you listen to blues music, and you listen to that popular blues riff [Austin begins singing] — it’s like, ‘Yeah, at some point somebody wrote it first.’ But now at this stage everyone uses it,” Austin says. “There are only so many chords [available].”

Garrett stated he understands either side. If he weren’t round, he’d need his household to defend the music he created like Townsend’s heirs have performed. However he additionally understands Sheeran’s place.

“To have to feel like you’re dealing with legal ramifications for something that you’re doing with so much passion, it’s just a very scary thing. It’s like, ‘I might go to jail for what I love to do?’ It sucks,” Garrett stated.

“I am so touched by the situation because it’s such an in-the-middle thing. It’s gut-wrenching. This is worse than a horror movie.”

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