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‘We’re Coming for Our 40 Acres’: Daughter of Co-Writer of ‘Let’s Get It On’ Calls Out Singer Ed Sheeran, Record Labels as Copyright Suit Nears Trial

A lawsuit involving a song that is almost synonymous with legendary soul singer Marvin Gaye is heading to court — this time with pop star Ed Sheeran. The “Shape of You” singer was accused of ripping off Gaye’s hit record “Let’s Get It On,” according to ABC News.  

Ed Townsend, who died in 2003, co-wrote the 1973 record with Gaye. In 2016, Townsend’s family filed a lawsuit against Sheeran, who’s also represented by Sony, accusing him, Sony, and Atlantic Records of copyright infringement. The case claimed that Sheeran stole the melody, harmony, and rhythmic components from Gaye’s track for the pop star’s song “Thinking Out Loud.” In 2019, a U.S. judge ordered Sheeran to appear in court for the claims after rejecting his request to dismiss.

Ed Sheeran (left) has been accused of copyright infringement of 1973 hit “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye (right). (Photos: @edsheeran/Instagram, @marvinpentzgaye/Instagram)

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, Townsend’s daughter, Kathryn Townsend, was joined by her attorney Keisha Rice during a news conference held in front of Sony Records in Culver City, California. “These offenses aren’t just taking place in the streets against black individuals in this country. They’re taking place in the boardrooms. They’re taking place in meetings where there’s no representation,” Rice said.

Townsend added, “Theft and bullying has been the only priority of the record labels’ agenda. It stops today, Sony, Atlantic, and all the rest of them. We’re coming for our 40 acres and a mule plus and interest. And know that we’re not going to be silent. It don’t stop till my casket drop.”

“Theft of the music is the new sharecroppers,” music legend George Clinton of the Parliament-Funkadelic said, who also joined Kathryn on Tuesday. “Not only do they take the music and the land back; they take the 40 acres and the mule back. They get it all from the money that’s being made from IP (intellectual property). So the artists don’t have a chance. I have 20 artists in my band who never got paid for all those samples you heard.”

Sheeran responded to the suit when it was initially filed by claiming that the chord progression and drum pattern for “Let’s Get It On” were extremely commonplace in the public domain and not protectable. The case has been making its way through the courts since then.

According to The Guardian, this is not Sheeran’s first time being named in a lawsuit in connection to “Let’s Get it On” and “Thinking Out Loud.” In 2018, Structured Asset Sales, which owns part of the copyright of “Let’s Get It On,” filed a lawsuit against the artist demanding $100 million.

The Townsend family’s lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of New York, with the trial scheduled to begin on Nov 9. The estate is seeking songwriting credit and a portion of Sheeran’s song’s revenue since it was released in 2014. 

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