Categories: Copyright Law

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Published May 18, 2023

Catherine Cavella, ESQ.

Takeaway No. 3: Sometimes the Principle is Worth Fighting For.

 

Sometimes, you need to fight for what is rightfully yours. Ed Sheeran generated his iconic song, “Thinking Out Loud,” from his own mind and proudly defended the rights of his original musical creations against Marvin Gaye’s heirs over alleged copyright infringement.

 

In our final takeaway, Catherine Cavella Esq. Speaks of our right to defend our original work.

 

Takeaway No. 3: Sometimes the principle is worth fighting for.

 

Like other mega-successful artists, Ed Sheeran gets sued for copyright infringement a lot. But he has not rolled over and paid up. Instead, he stood his ground and taken the cases to trial, despite the expense, effort, and time it takes to do so. He stands up for what he, I and (I venture to say) most musicians know is right: He borrowed nothing more than standard elements of the genre. 

 

If musicians repeatedly cave into accusations of copyright infringement even where there is none, such cases will multiply, and musicians will find themselves constrained and afraid to create new songs out of fear the songs will reflect their influences (as all art does) and they will be sued. Sheeran clearly believes that musicians must be free to create their music without fear of a shakedown because their song sounds like one of the millions of pieces of music that came before it. 

 

All art derives from other art. All artists are influenced by the work of the artists they admire and the art they enjoyed throughout their lives. Artists subconsciously synthesize multiple influences with their own inspiration, and the product is a new work of original creative expression. 

 

Copyright law recognizes that all art builds on other art and not all similarity means copying. Hopefully, the verdict in the “Thinking Out Loud” case will help deter future copyright suits where no real copying exists.

 

Therefore, similarities amounting to nothing more than genre similarities do not amount to copyright infringement (copying). 

 

In other words, the characters, settings, and plot points common to the genre are not protectable – they are free for anyone to use. 

 

In conclusion, even though the two successful songs have similarities, those similarities are not copyright infringement, they are just genre similarities. In other words, Ed Sheeran did not copy Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” when creating his work “Thinking Out Loud.” By refusing to settle and believing in his case, Sheeran benefitted all.

 

We hope you found this 3-part article helpful and that we cleared up a few copyright questions you may have had pertaining to music. IP WORKS LAW strives to provide quality, informative content that will give you clarity to move your project forward and POWER YOUR IDEAS ®.

 

Do you have a copyright project that needs professional attention? Let’s talk. Reach out to IP WORKS LAW to schedule a FREE, confidential conversation about how we can take your innovation to the next level.

 

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Since 1992, Catherine Cavella, Esq. Her focus on Trademark Law and Copyright Law for the last few decades gives her deep insights into the fundamental principles behind the rules. Catherine regularly writes about new developments in trademark law, copyright law, and internet law.