Griffin et al v. Sheeran et al
OPINION AND ORDER re: 66 FIRST MOTION for Summary Judgment . filed by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, LLC, Edward Christopher Sheeran, Atlantic Recording Corporation. The motion for partial summary judgment (0kt. No. 66) isdenied. So ordered. (Signed by Judge Louis L. Stanton on 1/2/2019) (rro)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
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KATHRYN TOWNSEND GRIFFIN, HELEN
MCDONALD, and THE ESTATE OF
DATE FILED: I I .3 I t'I
17 Civ. 5221 (LLS)
- against -
OPINION & ORDER
EDWARD CHRISTOPHER SHEERAN, p/k/a
ED SHEERAN, ATLANTIC RECORDING
CORPORATION, d/b/a ATLANTIC
RECORDS, SONY/ATV MUSIC PUBLISHING,
LLC, and WARNER MUSIC GROUP
COPRORATION, d/b/a ASYLUM RECORDS,
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Plaintiffs, claiming to own a partial interest in the
copyright of the musical composition "Let's Get It On"
heirs of Edward B. Townsend, brought this action for copyright
They allege that a musical composition "Thinking
("TOL"), co-written by defendant Edward Christopher
Sheeran and non-party Amy Wadge, infringes their copyright in
Defendants maintain that the deposit copy (not the sound
recording) of LGO defines the scope of the copyright, that the
two works are not substantially similar, that any alleged
similarities concern unprotectable and commonplace elements, and
that plaintiff Kathryn Townsend Griffin lacks standing to bring
sui t .
Th e y mo v e for summary judgment dismissing the complaint on
thos e gr o unds .
The parties have submitted reports by expert
music ol ogists, who dispute whether substantial similarities exist
between th e two works and whether those alleged similarities were
c ommonplace prior to LGO .
Regardless of whether the deposit copy or sound recording of
LGO defines the scope of the composition ' s copyright , material
facts are in dispute : whether the harmony and harmonic rhythm
were commonplace prior to LGO , and whether numerous musical
elemen t s in the two works are substantially similar and so
uncommon that an ordinary observer would recognize TOL as having
been appropriated from LGO.
summary judgment (0kt. No.
Accordingly, defendants' motion for
is denied .
Let's Get It On
Plaintiffs own partial interests in the musical c omposition
c o pyright o f the song LGO .
They claim to be heirs of Townsend,
who co-wrote LGO with Marvin Gaye in 1973. 1
Townsend created the
At the time o f Townse n d 's deat h , he retained the ri gh t to t wo - thirds of the
songwriter royalties attributable to LGO . The remai ning o n e -t hird of the
songwrit e r r oyalt i es were assigned to Ga ye . The ben e fici a l own e rs of Gaye ' s
one - thir d intere s t have commenced a related action , in whi ch forma l di s covery
is stayed pending the resolut i on of this motion.
See Orde r , Str uc t u r e d Ass et
Sales , LLC v . Sheeran et al. , 18 - cv - 5839 (S . D. N.Y . Sept . 4 , 2018) (Dkt.
music and lyrics for LGO while he was sitting at the piano .
following da y , Gaye agreed to record the song.
what would become the first commercially released sound recording
of LGO on March 22 , 1973.
On July 17 , 1973 , music publishers filed a copyright
application for LGO with the U.S. Copyright Office .
copyright application identifies Townsend as the sole author of
LGO , and identifies February 14 , 1973 , as the date of publication
o f LGO.
Sheet music for LGO (the "deposit copy " ) was deposited in
support of the copyright application .
deposit copy appears as follows:
The first page of the LGO
Ltrs GIT ff ON
Of PIMOtJO MUS (
ANb CHE ...mowtt MUSI(
( Dkt. No.
12 at 8) .
The parties agree that the LGO deposit copy includes the
composition ' s key , meter , harmony (i . e., chord progressions) ,
rhythm , melody , lyrics , and song structure , but they dispute
whether the deposit copy also implies or includes other musical
Add ' l Rule 56.1 Stmt.
(0kt . No.
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