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Ed Sheeran copyright case postponed because of COVID

By | Published on Monday 19 October 2020

Ed Sheeran

The big song-theft legal battle between Ed Sheeran and the estate of Ed Townsend – which was due to arrive in court next month – has been postponed because of the impact COVID is having on the New York courts, not to mention the ability of Team Sheeran to travel to the US.

Sheeran is accused of ripping off Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ on his 2014 hit ‘Thinking Out Loud’. Townsend co-wrote Gaye’s song, and it was his estate that went legal over the song-theft claims.

Earlier this month legal reps for Sheeran requested that the scheduled November court hearing be postponed. He and several other witnesses in the case are currently in the UK, and COVID rules currently mean direct UK to US travel is not allowed.

Therefore, to get to New York, Sheeran and his team would have to travel via another country, staying there for at least fourteen days, so that they were allowed to enter the US.

They’d then likely have to quarantine on arrival in New York. Plus, while in transit, rules could change making it impossible to complete the journey. Or, Sheeran’s team could get there to find the court hearing was being postponed anyway.

That the case could be postponed whatever was confirmed by the judge last week. He noted that the New York courts are currently operating at limited capacity and that priority is being given to criminal cases. Civil cases, in the main, are relying on gaps in the schedule created by last minute plea deals in criminal cases.

With all that in mind, it seems much more sensible to postpone now, before Sheeran et al embark on a tricky journey in a bid to get to New York in time for a court hearing that probably won’t go ahead. Judge Louis Stanton said that court hearing would now take place “next spring”.

The decision was welcomed by the Sheeran side. Legal rep Donald Zakarin of Pryor Cashman LLP told Law360: “I want to be clear that our clients very much want to try this case and put what we consider a baseless infringement claim behind them. We will be ready to proceed as soon as there is more certainty about obtaining a jury and the travel restrictions that have made it largely impossible for our client and UK witnesses to attend trial are behind us”.

Meanwhile, a lawyer working for the Townsend estate said that his clients “understand the need for caution in these uncertain times”, but added: “The delay, however, will not diminish the Townsend family’s resolve to obtain justice for what can only be described as outright theft of ‘Let’s Get It On’ at the hands of Mr Sheeran”.