Ed Sheeran Gets It: As He Wins His Copyright Lawsuit, He Decries ‘Culture’ Of Bogus Copyright Suits

from the copyright-is-broken dept

We’ve covered a variety of recent copyright lawsuits against songs that sound vaguely similar, noting this ridiculous war on genres, and basically outlawing the idea of an homage. Even in cases where the lawsuits fail (which is frequently, though not always), it’s still an extremely costly waste of time that can still have massive chilling effects on creative people. Ed Sheeran has been sued a few times with these kinds of claims, and thankfully, just won a case in the UK.

But, perhaps even more importantly, with the announcement of the win, Sheeran put out a really fantastic video statement that is worth watching about the state of vexatious copyright lawsuits these days.

In case that video disappears (or you’re not able to watch it), here’s a transcript:

Hey guys. Me, Johnny, and Steve have made a joint statement that will be a press release on the outcome of this case. But I wanted to make a small video to talk about it a bit, because I’ve not really been able to talk about it whilst it’s been going on. Whilst we’re obviously happy with the result, I feel like claims like this are way too common now, and have become a culture where a claim is made with the idea that a settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court, even if there is no basis for the claim. It’s really damaging to the songwriting industry.

There’s only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music. Coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 songs are being released every day on Spotify—that’s 22 million songs a yearand there’s only 12 notes that are available.

I don’t want to take anything away from the pain and hurt suffered from both sides of this case, but I just want to say, I’m not an entity. I’m not a corporation. I’m a human being. I’m a father, I’m a husband, I’m a son. Lawsuits are not a pleasant experience. And I hope that with this ruling, in the future baseless claims like this can be avoided. This really does have to end.

Me, Johnny, and Steve, are very grateful for all the support sent to us by fellow songwriters over the last few weeks. Hopefully, we can all get back to writing songs, rather than having to prove that we can write them. Thank you.

That’s a really fantastic statement. Copyright has long been a complete mess, and one that, in its current form, has done way more damage to creativity than helped it. And Sheeran is no stranger to recognizing this as it’s not the first time we’ve talked up his views on these things. Five years ago, we wrote about how he explained that piracy is what made his career possible. And not in the sense of this lawsuit, which falsely accused him of “pirating” someone else’s work, but he recognized that fans sharing his songs is what made it possible for him to build a devoted fan base.

Furthermore, when his big record label pulled a video down of someone singing a Sheeran cover on Facebook, causing her to lose her account for infringement, Sheeran stepped in to say he supported people singing his songs and got his label (Atlantic/Warner) to remove the copyright claim.

But this is not just about Sheeran. In the video above, he correctly notes that he’s a human being, not an entity or a corporation. But he’s also an enormously successful and wealthy human being who is able to weather these attacks more easily than nearly everyone else impacted by a copyright system run amok. For most people today’s modern copyright system is not doing anything to incentivize new creations or to “protect” artists. It’s doing the opposite. It’s great that Sheeran seems to understand all this, but it’s not enough for a few musicians (and the wider public) to recognize it.

We’re still living in a world where the record labels, like Sheeran’s, and other legacy players in the copyright industries, are pushing for ever more ridiculous copyright laws. In the EU they have Article 17, that is going to make things much worse, while in the US, we have a new bill, pushed for by the record labels to basically break the internet in support of their (not the actual artists) business interests.

The copyright system is broken. It’s great that Ed recognizes that and is willing to speak to that fact, but these lawsuits aren’t going to go away just because he won this one. It needs real change in terms of fixing our incredibly broken copyright system. And it certainly doesn’t need politicians playing to donors making it worse.

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Comments on “Ed Sheeran Gets It: As He Wins His Copyright Lawsuit, He Decries ‘Culture’ Of Bogus Copyright Suits”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 songs are being released every day on Spotify—that’s 22 million songs a year—and there’s only 12 notes that are available.

As most of those will not make money, and similarities, if easily found, would be the basis for thousands of lawsuits a year, what useful purpose is copyright serving. It is not needed to encourage creativity, as it is harder to get rich from creativity than win the lottery, and takes far more effort.

Those who make a living self publishing can rarely afford to defend their copyrights, and are better of ensuring that they are easily identified as the creator of a work, by embedding branding. Any piracy, where they are easily identified grows their fan-base.

The laws being pushed by the middlemen make it clear, and that is copyright is there to allow them to control markets and make themselves a good profit. Benefits to their chose artists are less clear, as very few make a living from royalties.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:


what useful purpose is copyright serving

Copyright gives control over the vast majority of popular cultural works to entrenched corporate interests. Those interests continue to consolidate their power over our culture and enrich themselves at the cost of cultural progress. Copyright serves only those purposes⁠—and arguably always has.

Anonymous Coward says:

He’s 100 per cent right, there’s a limited amount of notes that can be used in a pop song that might appeal to the listener, copyright laws were not made in a time when a million songs can be made on a laptop by anyone and uploaded on soundcloud, bandcamp YouTube etc when the laws were made the only songs released were on Lp, vinyl records, pressed in a factory released and promoted by record company’s , like before cable TV was invented there was a limited amount of TV programs made or broadcast.

Anonymous Coward says:

Thank you so much for including the transcript.

I rely on subtitles when I watch videos, and I’ve also become more aware about the importance of archiving the internet. Too many things disappear and too many things disappear too quickly.

The internet respectively promotes creativity and innovation more effectively than do copyright and patents. In a clash between copyright and the internet (or really a proxy war between greed-born artificial scarcity and the natural human tendency to copy and transform existing things), it makes no sense that copyright would win out. If either must be sacrificed, then copyright must be sidelined in favor of protecting the internet, not the other way around.

Bobvious says:

20 something musos should not be suing other people

Controversial statement?

Yes. But until young musicians have heard the thousands of songs that have been performed before they were even born, they are going to be unaware of prior art.

Besides which, the opening of Sami Chokri’s Oh Why has elements of the “ella ella” bit from Rihanna’s Umbrella, and those elements repeat through the rest of the song.

As I noted in https://www.techdirt.com/2021/08/27/psa-universal-music-group-has-copyrighted-moon-that-is-all/#comment-1839015 similarities are going to happen. In this case, two Johnny come latelies were fighting each other over who copied who, whilst ignoring the 600 foot high prior art in the room

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Perhaps it is time to get the EPA involved.
We removed lead from gas because it was toxic.
We stopped people dumping into rivers (well kinds) because it was toxic.
Can’t look at the entire copyright industry & pretend it isn’t toxic to humans.

Yeah they always used to do things like this, but its a new century perhaps we should ask why we keep making young artists shovel coal to keep the boiler powering the record label when we’ve outlawed child labor and its easier to power things with electricity now.

Arijirija says:

copyrights and earworms: poisoning the well

As should be well known, a lot of the songs that hit the hit parade are intended to be hard to forget. It’s a well-known basic fact of the song-writing trade, that a song that is hard to forget is always going to be with the audience, whether they like it or not. And believe you me, a fair amount of the time we the audience don’t! I hated Cliff Richard’s Devil woman when it came out in the 70s. I can still remember the words and the melody.

Not to forget, hit songs were played to death on most stations. They repeated themselves into your brain, until you know there will be tears in heaven, because you can’t forget the bally songs!!!

So on one hand the audience is peppered with hard-to-forget songs; on the other hand, the copyright thought police demand absolute purity of essence in every new song that is published and played.

And nobody sees any problem with this? Any song I write will unfortunately contain echoes – as faint as I can make them, but they’ll still be there – of that Devil Woman of Cliff Richard’s, and of course all the other songs that I’ve heard over the years.

Karma police, arrest these copyright thought police! They’re buzzing like an detuned radio. Make them go crazy in the dark. We all think they’re insane cause they’re frowning all the time. Puleeze!

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