Ed Sheeran sings and plays guitar on witness stand in copyright trial

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Jurors in New York were treated to a free Ed Sheeran concert on Thursday (27 April) in the singer’s ongoing plagiarism trial.

The British artist is being sued by the heirs of Ed Townsend, the songwriter who composed Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” with the legendary soul singer.

The plaintiffs allege that Sheeran’s 2014 song “Thinking Out Loud” copied harmonic progressions, melodic and rhythmic elements from “Let’s Get It On” without permission, which Sheeran denies.

To illustrate his point, the Grammy-winning singer played the basic chord progression of “Thinking Out Loud” while on the witness stand Thursday.

According to ABC News, Sheeran also briefly sang what he said were the song’s original lyrics: “I’m singing out now.”

Sheeran testified that he writes most of his songs in a day and did not stop to think about copying Gaye’s iconic track while composing “Thinking Out Loud”.

On writing the song with collaborator Amy Wadge, Sheeran said: “We sat guitar to guitar... We wrote together quite a lot.”

Ed Sheeran arrives for his copyright infringement trial at Manhattan Federal Court (Getty Images)
Ed Sheeran arrives for his copyright infringement trial at Manhattan Federal Court (Getty Images)

Court has now adjourned for the week following its third day, with Sheeran scheduled to resume testifying in the trial on Monday.

Day two of the trial was drama-filled after the plaintiff, Kathryn Townsend Griffin, collapsed in court.

Griffen, who is Townsend’s daughter, reportedly fainted when Sheeran’s lawyers began cross-examination of a music expert and was taken to hospital.

On the same day, the courtroom erupted into laughter after hearing an AI-generated version of “Let’s Get it On”.

On Tuesday (25 April), the plaintiff’s lawyer, Ben Crump, presented a video from one of Sheeran’s past live performances in which he “mashes up” his track with “Let’s Get it On”.

The attorney described the video, which can be viewed on YouTube, as a “smoking gun”.

“That concert video is a confession,” said Crump.

Sheeran’s lawyer Ilene S Farkas countered by arguing that the video does not prove copyright infringement took place, highlighting the fact that Sheeran frequently performs mash-ups during gigs.

The trial is expected to last for up to two weeks.

In April 2022, Sheeran won a separate copyright lawsuit after being accused of plagiarising his song “Shape of You” from Sami Chokri’s 2015 song “Oh Why”.