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Let’s Get ‘Let’s Get It On’ Trial On, Judge Says

Feb. 7, 2019, 3:50 PM

Copyright infringement claims by the co-writer of Marvin Gaye’s 1973 hit “Let’s Get It On” against Ed Sheeran will continue to a jury trial, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled Feb. 6.

The heirs of songwriter Edward Townsend, who co-wrote “Let’s Get It On” and owned rights in the song when he died, sued Sheeran for infringing with his hit “Thinking Out Loud.”

Judge Louis Stanton will allow a jury to determine whether the “Let’s Get It On” chord progression and harmonic rhythms are protectable under the Copyright Act, as well as whether elements like vocal melody, bass-line and percussion, and total concept and feel are substantially similar.

Stanton denied Sheeran’s motion for a ruling that the progression and rhythms of “Let’s Get It On” are unprotectable, or for certification of that question to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

A ruling that the progression and rhythm were unprotectable as commonplace before “Let’s Get it On” was written would be “abrupt and premature,” Stanton said. It is “better to let the evidence on the point develop further.”

Stanton also said there was no reason to certify the question to the Second Circuit without letting the district court resolve it first.

Pryor Cashman LLP represents Sheeran. Frank & Associates represent Griffin.

The case is Griffin v. Sheeran, S.D.N.Y., No. 1:17-cv-05221, 2/6/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Blake Brittain in Washington at bbrittain@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com