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Ed Sheeran denies copying Marvin Gaye song at trial

Ed Sheeran has some bad habits, but ripping off other people’s songs isn’t one of them, he insisted this week on the witness stand.

The British pop musician testified Tuesday in Manhattan federal court that he did not plagiarize the Marvin Gaye classic “Let’s Get It On” while co-writing his hit single “Thinking Out Loud.” Sheeran is on trial in New York after the family of Gaye’s late songwriting partner, Ed Townsend, sued him for copyright infringement.

According to the Associated Press, Sheeran got heated at times and sparred with the plaintiffs’ attorney, Keisha Rice.

After the plaintiffs’ team played a video for the jury of Sheeran performing a mashup of “Thinking Out Loud” and “Let’s Get It On” in concert, the Grammy winner testified that it is “quite simple to weave in and out of songs” that are in the same key.

Sheeran argued that he would “be an idiot to stand on a stage in front of 20,000 people and” play a song he knowingly plagiarized.

Another attorney for the plaintiffs, however, said the footage of Sheeran merging the two songs was tantamount to “a confession.” Ben Crump, who represents the Townsend family, called the video a “smoking gun” and urged Sheeran to give “credit where credit is due.”

(The judge overseeing the case, Louis L. Stanton, initially rejected the plaintiffs’ motion to show the concert video to the jury but had said he would reconsider his decision depending on the evidence presented.)

Townsend’s daughter and lead plaintiff Kathryn Townsend Griffin also took the witness stand and hailed Sheeran as “a great artist with a great future.”

“But I have to protect my father’s legacy,” she added.

In 2016, Townsend’s heirs filed a lawsuit accusing Sheeran of stealing “the heart” of “Let’s Get It On” by using “melodic, harmonic and rhythmic compositions” that are “substantially and/or strikingly similar to the drum composition” of the Gaye tune.

Attorneys for Sheeran have countered in court documents and at trial that “the two songs share versions of a similar and unprotectable chord progression that was freely available to all songwriters.”

The Manhattan trial is expected to last up to two weeks, and Sheeran is scheduled to kick off a North American concert tour May 6 in Arlington, Texas. His new studio album, “Subtract,” comes out May 5.

The week of the album release, a number of “Subtract” pop-up experiences are slated to appear in major U.S. cities, including Los Angeles and New York. The Subtract tour is coming to Santa Clara and Inglewood in September.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared on LA Times

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