Instead, the jury heard a computerized “Let’s Get It On,” based on the original sheet music. It was a cold and disembodied performance, complete with a robotic vocal that sounded as if it were coming from a Speak & Spell toy — a bizarre interpretation for one of the most erotic songs of all time.
4. Ed Sheeran showed two very different sides.
Sheeran attended every day of testimony in the trial, and on the stand he could be charming, demonstrating his songwriting with a guitar. He recounted his determination as a 17-year-old aspiring musician to play every open-mic night in London, and said he writes as many as eight or nine songs a day.
But Sheeran, 32, was also at times belligerent and angry. He attacked the testimony of Alexander Stewart, a musicologist testifying for the plaintiffs, as “criminal.” Under cross-examination, he interrupted Patrick R. Frank, a lawyer for the plaintiffs who questioned Sheeran’s testimony about the chords he played, challenging him, “Do you believe this?”
5. Musicologists can be vicious to each other.
A key part of any music copyright trial is the testimony of musicologists hired as expert witnesses for each side, who present dry, abstract analyses of the music.
At the Sheeran trial, the two experts also seemed to take every opportunity to put each other down. Stewart, a professor at the University of Vermont, portrayed his counterpart, Lawrence Ferrara of New York University, as struggling to find persuasive “prior art” — citations from music history that would undermine the originality of “Let’s Get It On.”
Ferrara fired back. He dismissed Stewart’s estimate that 70 percent of “Thinking Out Loud” had been taken from “Let’s Get It On” as “ridiculous” and “outlandish.” Stewart’s hypothesis that Sheeran had mimicked some of Gaye’s melodies, Ferrara said, was, “to be perfectly honest, absurd.” Other conclusions by Stewart were “farcical” and “ludicrous,” Ferrara said. For musicologists, these were fireworks.