British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran is being sued a second time over similarities between his hit song "Thinking Out Loud" and the Marvin Gaye classic "Let's Get it On."
In a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Manhattan, Structured Asset Sales argues that Sheeran's 2015 Grammy Award-winning Song of the Year copies numerous crucial elements, including melody and rhythms, of the 1973 hit written by singer Gaye and Ed Townsend. SAS owns an interest in the copyrights of the song's late co-writer, Townsend.
"We tried to work it out amicably, but it didn't work out and we did what we were required to do within a certain amount of time," David Pullman, head of the Los Angeles-based SAS, told Newsday.
The 30-page complaint claims damages of $100 million. "It's one of the most streamed songs in history," Pullman said. "It's been streamed over 1 billion times." The single and the album on which it appears, "X," have sold 15 million copies, he adds. "Plus there's the synchronization license, for commercials [and other uses], there's touring and merchandising income — we listed approximately 50 categories" of revenue streams.
Townsend, who died in August 2003 at age 74, was a highly successful songwriter-producer who composed more than 200 songs. His heirs sued Sheeran over "Thinking Out Loud" in 2016, but a judge dismissed the case without prejudice in February 2017. "It was dismissed solely because they didn't serve the defendants overseas, since many of them were in the U.K." Pullman says. The heirs, he added, have refiled their suit.
Sheeran, 27, appears to have no personal publicist. A representative for Atlantic Records, the singer's label, did not respond to a Newsday request for comment. Sheeran has not commented on social media.
Pullman in 1997 famously packaged David Bowie's copyrights and music catalog into what Pullman trademarked as "Bowie Bonds." When the unmarried Townsend died without leaving a will, his son Clef Michael Townsend, one of the composer's three grown children, sold and assigned his interest in Townsend's estate to SAS.
Sheeran was the target of a similar suit in January, when two Australian songwriters sued him and other writers, including Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, over the McGraw-Hill duet "The Rest of Our Life."
Exclusive subscription offer
Newsday covers the stories that matter most to Long Islanders. We dig deep to uncover the facts, hold the powerful in check and keep a watchful eye on Long Island.
Your digital subscription, starting at $1, supports local journalism vital to the community.SUBSCRIBE NOW