$20m Ed Sheeran lawsuit 'sets dangerous precedent', says intellectual property lawyer

Music copyright cases like Ed Sheeran's 'sets a really dangerous precedent', says lawyer

Ed Sheeran is being sued over his song Photograph

Thursday, June 9, 2016

An intellectual property lawyer has told talkSPORT that the $20m (£13.8m) copyright lawsuit served on Ed Sheeran over his 2015 song Photograph sets a "dangerous precedent" for musical performers. 

International star Sheeran is being sued by songwriters Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard, who claim Photograph is very similar in structure to the song Amazing that they penned for 2012 X-Factor winner Matt Cardle.

The writ, filed in Los Angeles, claims that the similarities between the songs 'go beyond substantial, which is itself sufficient to establish copyright infringement, and are in fact striking'.

 But intellectual property lawyer Michelle Sally questions the motives behind the legal action.

"The two songs that we're listening to, one's obviously done a lot better than the other and you wonder if that's why it's going to court," she said to Sam Delaney.

"Other people might say '[Amazing] didn't do very well, it’ll cost us more money to take this to court rather than just leaving it alone'."

Similar cases have hit the headlines in recent months, with a judge in April ruling that Led Zeppelin pair Robert Plant and Jimmy Page have a case to answer over whether the band's massive 1970s hit Stairway to Heaven stole its distinctive opening chords from a 1967 song called Taurus by the band Spirit. A trial is due to start on 14 June. 

Last year Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were ordered to pay more than £5m after it was ruled that their 2013 No.1 Blurred Lines was based on Marvin Gaye's 1977 hit Got To Give It Up

"That will be the next one we see," Sally said. "This case against Ed Sheeran is at a very initial stage, so we don't know if it will go to trial.

"It sets a really dangerous precedent that there are eight notes in a [musical] scale and if you repeat them again, you can get some form of compensation for it."