Friday 10 June 2016

Sheeran claim puts 'Blurred Lines' back in focus

Two musicians based in California are suing Ed Sheeran for $20m (£13.8m) over alleged copyrigt infringement of one of tbeir songs in Sheerhan's single 'Photograph'. Martin Harrington and American Thomas Leonard claim 'Photograph' has a similar structure to their song, 'Amazing'. The two songwriters allege Ed Sheeran's 2015 ballad has the same musical composition to their track, which was released as Matt Cardle's winning X Factor track in 2010. Harrington and Leonard say they wrote 'Amazing' in 2009. Ciurt filings include musical note comparison and chord breakdowns of the two songs, and the pair claim the chorus of Photograph shares 39 identical notes with their track. The court documents say that 'Photograph' has sold more than 3.5 million copies worldwide.

The claim also states that 'Photograph' features prominently in Hollywood drama Me Before You, released last week, as well as trailers for the film. Matt Cardle's version of 'Amazing' has more than one million views on YouTube, while Ed Sheeran's music video for 'Photograph' has 208 million

Documents were filed on Wednesday at LA's federal court in the Central District of California. Other named defendants being sued include Snow Patrol's Johnny McDaid, who is credited as a co-writer on' Photograph', as well as various divisions of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Warner Music Group and its subsidiary, Atlantic Recording Corporation. Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard, and their publishing company HaloSongs, want a trial and damages of more than $20m (£13.8m), as well as royalties from Sheerhan's song.

Emma Perot's recent 31st May IPKat article noted that Justin Bieber and Skrillex have been accused of copyright infringement by artist Casey Dienel, aka White Hinterland. Dienel has alleged that Bieber and Skrillex, whose 2015 hit single ‘Sorry’ has received 1.4 billion hits on YouTube, copied her vocal loop from her 2014 song ‘Ring the Bell’. The allegedly copied segment can be heard in the first five seconds of each song. Skrillex and Bieber have both denied the claims on their Twitter accounts. And that claim was before the recent deicision by the 9th circuit Court of Appeal in the 'Vogue' case on sampling and the decision by the German Constitutional Court's decision in Kraftwerk's case against Moses Pelham, both of which seems to have shifted the law in their respective countries - at least on sampling. 

However If either of these claims goes to trial, it could be the 2016 edition of the infamous “Blurred Lines” dispute, which resulted in Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke being ordered to pay Marvin Gaye’s family $7.4 million USD (which was later reduced to $5.3 million) for infringing copyright in his 1977 hit ‘Got To Give It Up’. The trial over the possible infringements by Led Zepplin's iconic 'Stairway to Heaven' and alleged similarities to Spirit's 'Taurus' is another one to watch. In April, Judge R. Gary Klausner of United States District Court denied Led Zeppelin's request for summary judgment, saying: "While it is true that a descending chromatic four-chord progression is a common convention that abounds in the music industry, the similarities here transcend the core structure." 

Lawyer Richard Busch who represented the Gaye family in Blurred Lines, is again involved in the Sheeran case, here acting for Harrington and Leonard.

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