Several months ago, we wrote about how Marvin Gaye's heirs filed a lawsuit against Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke for allegedly copying certain elements of one of Gaye's iconic songs. That suit netted the heirs a court-ordered award of over $3 million. The heirs have since filed a new lawsuit against Ed Sheeran.
The new lawsuit alleges that Sheeran took part of Gaye's famous song, "Let's Get It On" and repeated it throughout his hit "Thinking Out Loud." Sheeran's song went on to top charts and win a Grammy, so it was no innocuous ditty hidden on out-of-the-way radio stations. Gaye's heirs are alleging that Sheeran benefited from the previous work and that he did not make enough changes to the original composition to call the new song an "independent creation."
Gaye's heirs are joined in the lawsuit by heirs of another songwriter, who had a hand in the original composition. Reportedly, even before the family filed this lawsuit, Twitter fans had noted the similarities in the two songs. Fans specifically encouraged each other to listen to the two guitar riffs to decide for themselves.
While this case might seem unique to songwriters and music idols, creative copyright and ownership isn't limited to the famous. If you own creative rights – or brand rights – in anything, then it's important to include those items in your estate plan. If you are the heir to an estate rife with creative or intellectual assets, then you might want to talk to an estate lawyer about how best to protect the legacy those assets represent.
Source: CW 39 News, "Ed Sheeran sued for copyright infringement by Marvin Gaye’s heirs," Nicole Eldridge, Aug. 10, 2016