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Jury finds Ed Sheeran didn't copy "Let's Get It On"

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

And now a resolution to a high-profile music copyright case.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THINKING OUT LOUD")

ED SHEERAN: (Singing) When your legs don't work like they used to before...

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

That's British pop star Ed Sheeran. And that song is called "Thinking Out Loud." After it was released in 2014, Sheeran was accused of copyright infringement by the family of another Ed - Ed Townsend, the co-writer of Marvin Gaye's 1973 classic "Let's Get It On."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THINKING OUT LOUD")

SHEERAN: (Singing) Darlin' I will be loving you till we're 70.

SUMMERS: Townsend's family claimed that Sheeran had ripped off "Let's Get It On" when he wrote "Thinking Out Loud." In 2018, a company with a stake in Townsend's estate filed a lawsuit based on that accusation.

PFEIFFER: The trial started last month, and Sheeran claimed the chords in the two songs are building blocks that songwriters everywhere use. During the trial, he even played guitar on the stand to demonstrate.

SUMMERS: Finally today, a federal jury ruled that Sheeran did not violate "Let's Get It On's" copyright. Here's Sheeran on the courthouse steps earlier this afternoon.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHEERAN: I'm obviously very happy with the outcome of the case, and it looks like I'm not having to retire from my day job after all.

PFEIFFER: Interestingly, jurors weren't even allowed to hear "Let's Get It On" in the courtroom. That's because the copyright in question was only for the sheet music, not the finished composition and recording.

SUMMERS: That feels like a bit of a loss for the jury. It's all definitely a loss for the Townsend estate. But Sacha, our audience has no such restriction.

PFEIFFER: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET'S GET IT ON")

MARVIN GAYE: (Singing) I've been really tryin', baby. Tryin' to hold back this feeling for so long. And if you feel like I feel, baby... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ashley Brown is a senior editor for All Things Considered.