Ed Sheeran is set to appear in court on Monday in an ongoing copyright dispute over his 2014 single Thinking Out Loud.
The case is being brought by investment banker David Pullman and Structured Asset Sales (SAS), which acquired a portion of the estate of Let’s Get It On co-writer Ed Townsend.
They have alleged that Sheeran’s song has “striking similarities” to the 1973 classic.
Jury selection for the civil trial will begin on Monday at Manhattan federal court, years after the lawsuit was initially filed in 2018.
Thinking Out Loud won a Grammy for song of the year when it first came out, and was written by Sheeran and English singer-songwriter Amy Wadge.
Let’s Get It On was one of Motown Records’ best-known singles, and the album it was on became Gaye’s most commercially successful album.
It has been regarded by writers and music critics as a landmark recording in soul, increasing the popularity of funk during the 1970, and has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as a historically important recording.
Jurors in the trial are expected to only consider the raw elements of melody, harmony and rhythm that make up the composition of Gaye’s hit.
Both parties are in disagreement over whether the chord progression used is protected under copyright or not, with Sheeran’s attorneys claiming the progression was “freely available to all songwriters”, according to the court filing.
Townsend’s lawyers pointed out in the filing that several artists have previously performed mashups of the two songs, and that Sheeran himself has “seamlessly” transitioned into Let’s Get It On during live performances of his song.
They asked to play a YouTube video of one such performance by Sheeran for the jury, however the request was denied by the judge.
It comes almost a year after Sheeran and co-songwriters Snow Patrol’s John McDaid and producer Steven McCutcheon were awarded £900,000 in legal costs after winning a High Court copyright trial.
Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue had alleged that the trio had ripped off their 2015 song in the process of writing Shape Of You.
However, Mr Justice Zacaroli concluded Sheeran “neither deliberately nor subconsciously” copied a phrase in the song.
During the 11-day trial in central London, Sheeran denied he “borrows” ideas from unknown songwriters without acknowledgement and insisted he “always tried to be completely fair” in crediting people who contribute to his albums.