A US judge has ruled a jury will decide whether or not Ed Sheeran is guilty of ripping off Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On for his hit Thinking Out Loud.
District Judge Louis Stanton rejected Sheeran’s request to dismiss the lawsuit and in a decision made public on Thursday said there were “substantial similarities between several of the two works’ musical elements”.
Let’s Get It On was released in 1973 while Sheeran’s Grammy-winning Thinking Out Loud was included on the British artist’s X album in 2014.
The lawsuit was brought by the estate and heirs of late producer Ed Townsend, who co-wrote Let’s Get It On with Gaye.
It names Sheeran, his co-writer Amy Padge, Sony/ATV Music Publishing and the Atlantic record label as defendants.
Sheeran, 27, denies copying Gaye.
As well as the “substantial similarities” between the two songs, Judge Stanton ruled it was disputed whether the harmonic rhythm of Let’s Get It On was deserving of copyright protection or whether it was too common.
The defence argued Thinking Out Loud was characterised by “sombre, melancholic tones, addressing long-lasting romantic love” while Let’s Get It On was a “sexual anthem”.
Despite this, the judge said listeners could view them as having the same “aesthetic appeal”.
Thinking Out Loud reached number one in the UK singles charts in November 2014 while Let’s Get It On hit number one in the US in September 1973.
Sheeran has also been accused of plagiarism over his songs Photograph and Shape Of You.
Judge Stanton is presiding over two lawsuits alleging Sheeran copied Let’s Get It On. In the other case, Structured Asset Sales (SAS), which owns one-third of Townsend’s estate, is suing for 100 US dollars (£79 million).
SAS is owned by David Pullman, the creator of the so-called Bowie Bonds, which saw David Bowie sell off bonds for 55 million dollars (£42 million) backed by royalties from his catalogue.
Gaye was shot dead by his father in 1984 at the age of 44.