New York Court rules in favour of Ed Sheeran in Copyright Case

Copyright over Musical Works

| Published on 10 May 2023

New York Court rules in favour of Ed Sheeran img

Copyright Protection 

Copyright protection is a legal concept that provides the creators of original works with the exclusive right to control and exploit their creations. Copyright law grants protection to various types of creative works, including literary, musical, artistic, and dramatic works, as well as software and databases. 

Ed Sheeran’s Verdict by New York Court  

Following a United States jury's verdict that he did not plagiarize Marvin Gaye's ‘Let's Get It On’ while composing his mega-hit ‘Thinking Out Loud’, British pop star Ed Sheeran expressed happiness and relief.  

Whilst taking the stand in front of the jury, 32-year-old Sheeran appeared in court with a guitar in hand and played demos to demonstrate that the 1-3-4-5 chord progression in question was a fundamental "building block" of pop music that could not be subject to ownership. 

He hailed the ruling as a triumph for artistic liberty and embraced his team inside a Manhattan court on Thursday. The jurors concluded that the 2014 Grammy award-winning song was "independently" created by the English musician.  

"Chords are a songwriter’s ‘alphabet’, our tool kit. No one owns them, or the way they are played, in the same way nobody owns the colour blue.” – Ed Sheeran 

Formalities & Eligibility for Copyright Protection 

Copyright is granted to an eligible work automatically; however, this protection is limited by territory. The main connecting factors would be domicile or citizenship of the creation. Under Malta copyright law, a work will only be considered as being eligible for copyright if it satisfies three criteria, namely – qualification, originality and fixation. 

What this means for you 

While copyright protection exists automatically upon the creation of an original work, registering your copyright in Malta appropriately can provide additional legal benefits and protections. Here are some issues that may arise from not registering your copyright: 

Limited Remedies

If your copyrighted work is infringed, you may be limited in the remedies available to you if you haven't registered your copyright.

Difficulty Proving Ownership

If you haven't registered your copyright, it may be more difficult to prove that you are the rightful owner of the copyrighted work.

Limited Ability to Enforce Rights

If you haven't registered your copyright, you may have limited ability to enforce your rights against infringers.

Reduced Value

If you're planning to sell your copyrighted work, not having a registered copyright may reduce its value in the eyes of potential buyers or investors. Registration provides evidence of ownership and can help protect against infringement, which can increase the value of your work. 

Malta Copyright Protection Services 

We represent corporate and personal clients in matters related to copyright protection & neighboring rights, by identifying and addressing issues, structuring the best procedure to obtain maximum protection and hence avoid or minimize the risk of copyright infringement. We also represent clients in court litigation, negotiation, and out of court settlements related to all aspects of copyright. 
Our services include: 

  • Addressing copyright ownership in commercial contracts;
  • Addressing breaches of licensed use;
  • Advise on appropriate action in litigation & infringements; 
  • Framing copyright licenses for special projects and joint ventures;
  • Structuring of best methods of protection in copyright matters; 
  • Advice and assistance including litigation in relation to copyright; and 
  • Assistance with copyright protection in other EU member states as well as Third Countries.

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Key Contacts

Dr Maria Chetcuti Cauchi

Senior Partner, Property & Projects

+356 2205 6112

Dr Charlene Mifsud

Partner, Corporate & Commercial

+356 2205 6298

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