All About Estates

The Defence calls Ed Sheeran

*There are 22 Ed Sheeran song references in this blog. How many can you find?*

The key to winning any court case? Sing. You’ll make the judge swoon.

If you are acting as the executor for the estate of an artist, intellectual property is likely your most valuable asset. Some estates of famous musicians use copyright infringement lawsuits as a means of generating income long after the artist’s death. The result? Bad habits of frivolous litigation

Ed Sheeran, everyone’s favourite ginger, was accused of copying elements from Marvin Gaye’s iconic “Let’s Get It On” which was co-written with the late Ed Townsend. Here’s a comparison.

In May, Ed finally had his day in court to defend his hit song “Thinking Out Loud.”  Townsend’s daughter was one of the plaintiffs, and the family was represented by renowned attorney Ben Crump. Talk about getting a legal A team. The plaintiff’s strongest evidence was a video of Ed playing a mashup of both songs at one of his shows. Seems like a lego house of an argument if you ask me. It’s borderline at best.

In response, the defence called in the biggest star witness of all time….

Ed’s testimony included using his hands of gold to play guitar and sing, giving the jury the feels to prove how common the chord progression for “Thinking Out Loud” is. In the end, the jury found that Ed was not liable for copyright infringement.

He sang in court?? Who is going to go against him after doing that? If the jury gave Ed a standing ovation, would there have been a mistrial? Should he have come out for an encore?

Let’s dive into some other famous examples of a musician’s estate suing for copyright infringement:

  • A court sided with Prince’s estate against an individual who posted concert video clips on YouTube. Maybe I should take down the above photograph?
  • A jury ruled that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ hit song “Blurred Lines” copied elements of Marvin Gaye’s song “Got to Give It Up” and ordered them to pay $7.4 million in damages. Plus, the song has creeeepy undertones
  • The estate of guitarist Randy California sued Led Zeppelin for copyright infringement, claiming “Stairway to Heaven” copied the song “Taurus.” The case was dismissed but keep your eyes closed and listen at 0.44

Are these lawsuits typically successful? Tides can turn either way. But what do I know? Some cases make it rain, while others stop the rain. If we go south of the border to the US, things are very litigious.

While it’s important to protect the intellectual property of musicians, it’s also worth remembering that many songs are built on the influences of those who came before. How do you balance leaving a music legacy that sparks inspiration for future generations, with ensuring your loved ones are taken care of?

If an artist wants their music to never fade like overpass graffiti, a Creative Commons (CC) License might be the answer. This is a public copyright license that is used when an artist wants to give the public the right to share, use, and build upon a work that the author has created.

This type of license protects the people who use an artist’s work from concerns of copyright infringement. It also provides flexibility if an artist chooses to allow only non-commercial uses of their work.

The key takeaway from the Ed Sheeran case is…..DON’T IGNORE A JURY DUTY NOTICE

Now give me love. Needed One More ♥

About Peter Meitanis

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