Ed Sheeran did not copy part of a Marvin Gaye melody in his hit song "Thinking Out Loud," a New York jury found Thursday.
The jury reached a unanimous verdict that Sheeran was not liable after about three hours of deliberations following the civil copyright infringement trial.
Sheeran, 32, said in a statement he was happy with the outcome of the case, but lamented the claim was "allowed to go to court at all," noting he missed his grandmother's funeral in Ireland.
"If the Jury had decided this matter the other way, we might as well say goodbye to the creative freedom of songwriters," he said, later adding, "I am just a guy with a guitar who loves writing music for people to enjoy. I am not and will never allow myself to be a piggy bank for anyone to shake."
When the verdict was announced, Sheeran stood up and hugged his lawyers. His wife, Cherry Seaborn, and his co-writer on the song, Amy Wadge, were in tears.
Jurors said they found Sheeran had independently created "Thinking Out Loud," which trumped all other decisions they had to make.
The heirs of Ed Townsend, Gaye's co-writer on the track "Let's Get It On," filed a lawsuit in 2017 claiming Sheeran's 2014 hit had "striking similarities" and shared "overt common elements" with the 1973 classic soul track. Townsend died in 2003.
In a statement after the verdict on May 4, the attorney for Townsend's daughter, Kathryn Townsend Griffin, slammed the decision and announced plans to appeal.
"These contemporary pop stars, who can’t even read or write music, are calling themselves songwriters when, in actuality, them, their products, and their stealing and repackaging the copyrighted music of Motown legends and hiding their theft with technology," the statement reads. "While these Motown Legends only had music knowledge, and a pen and paper, they wrote legendary music that they copyrighted to leave a financial legacy to their families. Most have died and their families can’t afford to fight the entire music industry, but Mrs. Townsend-Griffin can and will. So, even though we respect the Court and the jury, we believe they got it wrong and intend on proceeding forward with our appeal of the verdict."
The trial began in Manhattan federal court on April 25, and Sheeran performed a portion of his song in the courtroom on April 27 to demonstrate how the song came together.
Using a guitar, Sheeran showed jurors the chord progression on "Thinking Out Loud," which he testified Wadge came up with.
He told jurors the progression on the Grammy Award-winning song is played differently than the progression on "Let's Get It On."
During the trial, attorneys played a live mash-up of the two songs Sheeran performed during a concert in Zurich. Townsend family attorney Ben Crump called the concert clip a "smoking gun" and proof that Sheeran violated copyrights.
Sheeran responded on the stand: "If I did what you're accusing me of, I’d be an idiot to stand in front of people."
The British pop star also announced during his testimony that if he lost the trial he would quit music.
"If that happens, I’m done — I’m stopping," he responded to his attorney during questioning. "I find it really insulting to work my whole life as a singer-songwriter and diminish it."
Townsend’s daughter, Kathryn Townsend Griffin, also testified and said she brought the lawsuit to "protect my father’s legacy."