The argument wasn’t just the chord sequence, but that the whole “vibe” of the song, including much of the rhythmic backing, was lifted from Marvin Gaye.
Several cases seem to be through the estate of Gaye and his co-writers who seem to be on a mission to claim ownership of any song with a vaguely similar groove. I would like to think Gaye, himself, had more dignity than to try to steal credit for other people’s music through the use of lawyers.
In the case of “Thinking Out Loud”, as I recall, Sheeran originally wrote it for solo performance with a looper (so no drums or bass) and the rhythmic backing in question was added after the event for the studio version.
Personally, I think it shares more with Van Morrison than it does with Gaye, but perhaps Van Morrison needs to watch his back. Although maybe he isn’t mainstream enough for the vultures.
When these cases do win, I do wonder if the artist who gets sued can then counter-sue for a share of the costs of production and marketing required to make these songs into hits.
I feel you are morally obliged to credit other peoples work, if you are aware that it influenced yours significantly. It’s harder to do of course, if you make your living from it.
I imagine the legal system is a very poor arbitrator on artistic appraisal
@brianlarsen To add to Brian’s observation. I think we have a 2x2 grid scenario here, one dimension being Case won or lost and the other being right and wrong. I think if you studied this you’d find cases in all the box. In this case, just because Ed Sheeran won doesn’t mean Marvin Gaye’s representatives weren’t right to some degree.
The other day I was trying to play one of the bluesy riffs that Justin teaches, the one that starts with the root note on the E string and skips to the root note an octave up on the D string. Then I started noodling around with the notes on a minor pentatonic, hoping to stumble over a riff for my next original song. I stumbled over something that I thought sounded promising. Then I thought, hang on, that rings a Led Zeppelin bell, though don’t ask me which song and I could be wrong.
Now what if I didn’t make that possible connection, produced the song, and was then sued by Page et al or their label? I could genuinely say I hadn’t copied their song, I didn’t consciously listen and transcribe the riff. Did it come from my subconscious somehow. Is it pure chance and of no matter.
But when I watch the Rick Beato video I think if you take the vocal out it sounds pretty much like the same song. A lot more than just both having the same chrod progression and no argument that one can’t copyright a I IV V 12BB progression. But not every 12BB in Bb sounds the same.