In a highly anticipated verdict, British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran emerged victorious in a copyright trial, defending claims that his hit song “Thinking Out Loud” infringed upon the musical composition of Marvin Gaye’s classic song “Let’s Get It On.” The verdict, delivered on May 4, 2023, by a federal jury in a United States District Court in New York, marked a significant moment in the ongoing debate surrounding music copyright infringement. The decision has far-reaching implications for the music industry worldwide and raises questions about the boundaries of creative inspiration and originality in song writing.
The legal battle began in 2018 when Structured Asset Sales (SAS), which holds a part of the copyright for “Let’s Get It On,” filed a lawsuit claiming that Sheeran’s song, copied the “melody, harmony, and rhythmic components” of Marvin Gaye’s iconic track. The lawsuit sought damages and a portion of the royalties earned from Sheeran’s song, which had achieved global success and widespread acclaim.
The verdict sets an important precedent for future copyright cases in the music industry as well as reinforcing the notion that stylistic similarities or a similar feel between songs, does not provide sufficient grounds for a successful copyright infringement claim. Rather, the focus in these cases still remains on identifying the substantial similarity of the important elements of a song, such as the melody, lyrics and musical composition.
As the music industry continues to evolve in this digital age, artists will be expected to continue to draw from the rich musical history that has come before them, meaning cases like this will undoubtedly arise again. This case highlights the importance of copyright laws, not only in the sense of artistic inspiration and music but also in the ever-changing modern world, which is why it is paramount to have an understanding of the way the law functions.
The case serves as a reminder of the importance of fostering a robust dialogue about the intricacies of copyright law, artistic inspiration, and the ever-changing landscape of creative expression in the modern world.
What is Copyrighting?
Copyrighting is the legal term used for the mechanism that grants exclusive rights to the creators over their original works, which prevents others from being able to use, distribute or reproduce their creations without lawful permission. Copyright protection covers many forms, including many artistic forms such as music, film, art and literature. By obtaining copyright on original work, this allows for creators to gain control over the way their content is used and gives them the ability to seek legal relief if their rights are infringed upon.
Copyright in Music and Song Lyrics:
In the realm of music, copyright protects both the musical composition and the lyrics. The composer or songwriter holds the copyright to the musical composition, while the lyricist retains rights over the lyrics. This dual protection ensures that creators have control over the use and distribution of their content.
APRA Music Copyright:
In Australia, the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) plays a significant role in administering and protecting music copyrights. APRA represents over 100,000 members, including songwriters and music publishers, and licenses the public performance of copyrighted music on behalf of its members.
Through licensing agreements with music users such as radio stations, venues, and online streaming platforms, APRA ensures that its members receive royalties for the use of their music. These royalties provide artists with fair compensation for their creative efforts and encourages the lawful use of copyrighted content.
Music Copyright Laws in Australia:
In Australia, music copyrights are governed by the Copyright Act 1968. This legislation grants creators exclusive rights over their original musical works, allowing them to control how their music is used, performed, recorded, or reproduced. The Act also establishes the duration of copyright protection, which varies depending on the type of work.
How Long Does Copyright Last?
In Australia, the duration of copyright protection for musical works, including both compositions and lyrics, generally lasts for the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years. This means that after the death of the artist, their music remains protected for several decades, ensuring their estate can benefit from the ongoing popularity and commercial benefits from their creation.
The recent verdict in Ed Sheeran’s copyright infringement case sheds light on the complexities of music copyrights and the importance of protecting Intellectual Property in the music industry. Copyrighting plays a vital role in safeguarding artists’ creative works, ensuring fair compensation for their contributions, and promoting creativity and artistic expression.
With organizations like the APRA diligently controlling music copyrights and advocating for the rights of artists, the music industry (via copyrwrighting) can maintain a balanced system where creators are encouraged to continue producing original and creative music for which they receive both the credit and financial reward.
The case also highlights the necessity for everyone to have an understanding of the how Copyright laws function to ensure that they are accurately equipped to protect their own rights when it comes to original works.
Salerno Law has a team of dedicated and experienced lawyers in this area of legal practice who have an unparalleled commitment to achieving the best possible outcomes for our clients. This dedication and experience mean we are able to provide tailored advice and successful results for our clients who wish to protect their creative property rights.
Our reputation for excellence and results makes us a trusted and reliable choice for anyone seeking legal representation or advice in a copyright dispute.
Author: Ibbi Jahshan