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    Sound Familiar? Ed Sheeran Not First Songwriter to be Accused of Plagiarism

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    A judge in the United States has ruled that a jury should decide if Ed Sheeran copied parts of a classic Marvin Gaye song. Sputnik looks at other cases where lawsuits have been threatened over similar-sounding tracks.

    On Thursday, 3 January, District Judge Louis Stanton found "substantial similarities" between Sheeran's hit song Thinking Out Loud and Marvin Gaye's 1973 classic Let's Get It On and said a jury in New York would have to make the final decision on whether Sheeran owed money.

    Sheeran denies borrowing from the track but is being sued by the estate and heirs of Ed Townsend, who co-wrote Let's Get It On with Gaye, who was shot dead by his father in 1984.

    ​So what other songwriters have been accused of plagiarism?

    Robin Thicke and Pharrell

    In 2013 Blurred Lines, by Robin Thicke and Pharrell, was a huge hit, topping the Hot 100 in the US for 12 consecutive weeks.

    The family of Marvin Gaye — yes, him again — thought it sounded remarkably similar to his 1977 song, Got To Give It Up, and sued the pair.

    ​In March 2015 a jury agreed with them and awarded the Gaye estate US$7.4million.

    The Verve

    The Verve's 1997 song Bitter Sweet Symphony was a monster hit on both sides of the Atlantic but it was not long before lawyers were hired to sue the band.

    There was no doubt Richard Ashcroft's lyrics were unique and original but the instrumental backing had allegedly been lifted from The Last Time, a 1965 track by the Rolling Stones, which was written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger.

    The Stones had actually agreed to let The Verve sample a five-note segment in return for 50 percent of the royalties but the veteran rockers' manager Allen Klein claimed they had used more of the original than they had agreed to in the deal.

    After litigation The Verve lost all control of their biggest hit, which was used in a Nike advert without their permission and without earning them any money.

    "I'm still sick about it," Ashcroft said later.


    In 2008 guitarist Joe Satriani was furious when he heard Coldplay's hit song Viva la Vida because he thought it sounded uncannily similar to If I Could Fly, which he had penned four years earlier.

    "I spent so long writing the song, thinking about it, loving it, nursing it, and then finally recording it and standing on stages the world over playing it — and then somebody comes along and plays the exact same song and calls it their own," Satriani told Rolling Stone.

    Chris Martin and his fellow band members said they had never heard his song and claimed the similarities were a coincidence.

    In 2009 his lawsuit was dismissed amid rumours they had settled out of court.

    Lana Del Rey

    In January 2018 Lana Del Rey announced to the world on Twitter that she was being sued by Radiohead over one of the tracks on her 2017 album Lust For Life.

    The ethereal English rockers claimed the track, Get Free, was a ringer for their breakthrough 1992 hit Creep.

    "Although I know my song wasn't inspired by Creep, Radiohead feel it was and want 100% of the publishing. I offered up to 40 over the last few months but they will only accept 100. Their lawyers have been relentless, so we will deal with it in court," Del Rey tweeted.

    Radiohead's record company, Warner/Chappell, hit back, issuing a statement denying they had issued a lawsuit, but admitting they had had "discussions" with Del Rey's representatives.

    Ironically Radiohead had actually been accused of plagiarizing Creep by Albert Hammond — whose son is Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. — and Mike Hazlewood who claimed it was similar to their song The Air That I Breathe, which The Hollies had performed in 1974. That case was settled out of court.

    Radiohead and Del Rey have yet to reach a settlement and the case has yet to go to court.

    Vanilla Ice

    When it comes to songwriters David Bowie and Vanilla Ice could never be said to be in the same league.

    So when the latter had a smash hit in 1990 with his song, Ice Ice Baby, Bowie and Queen sued for copyright infringement, claiming he had clearly sampled from their 1981 collaboration Under Pressure.

    Vanilla Ice — real name Robert Van Winkle — tried to laugh it off but was eventually forced to agree an out of court settlement.

    He was even forced to give Bowie and the members of Queen — including Freddie Mercury, who died in 1991 — a songwriting credit on Ice Ice Baby.

    Arctic Monkeys

    Sometimes bands get away with sounding similar because they make it clear their songs are a homage to groups who have influenced them.

    Such was the case in 2009 when the opening riff of The Arctic Monkeys' song Arabella sounded uncannily like War Pigs, by Black Sabbath.

    Arctic Monkeys' lead singer Alex Turner admitted to the NME they had been heavily influenced by the heavy metal legends.

    "We went to Latitude (Festival), ripped it up, wrote on our faces and eventually wrote some songs. We spent the first day there on the most complicated riff you've ever heard. It goes round in seven-and-a-half-time. We used it in the end, it's on an intro. It was like (Black) Sabbath," said Turner.

    Arctic Monkeys, Again

    Earlier this year the Arctic Monkeys produced a new album, which featured a track called Four Out Of Five, which many people thought had echoes of The Eagles' 1977 classic Hotel California.

    So far there is no news of lawyers having been hired by Don Felder, Don Henley or the family of Glenn Frey (died in 2016), who jointly wrote Hotel California.


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    popular songs, copyright infringement, plagiarism, lawsuit, Ed Sheeran, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, England, New York
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