Ed Sheeran Attorney Says Singer ‘Feels Right For All Songwriters’


Saying that the music industry clings to outside news Ed Sheeran The copyright infringement case, and especially the verdict, would be an understatement, as after the “Blurred Lines” case had a very different outcome. Ilene Farkas, chief attorney for Pryor Cashman, who is leading Sheeran’s defense, says the two cases aren’t exactly comparable, but she knows very well that many songwriters who are worried they might end up in the same situation as Sheeran expect a victory for victory. The singer-songwriter will set some new precedents for copyright claims that face a higher burden of proof in the future.

Farkas spoke to Variety the day after the decision to support Sheeran over Sheeran’s heirs. Marvin GayeEd Townsend, co-author of ‘Let’s Get It On’.

After seven or eight years of slow progress in the legal system, did you always see it as a grand slam when the time came, or was there more discomfort than that? Does the side of it think the judges got it wrong in the past?

We were talking about chord progressions and anticipation of chord progressions when you really look at what’s really at stake in this case. And to the extent that varying theories involve pitches or melodies here and there, we were always confident that if you applied these facts to copyright law, we would certainly prevail. But different judges have different levels of familiarity and comfort with music. And of course, as you pointed out, when a jury is involved, you never know how these six people will see the evidence and understand the music theories presented to them. So we all know that with a jury you never know. We were absolutely confident in our position.

It’s not always easy to intuit what jurors are thinking during a trial, but do you get any insight into how they tend to be or if there’s a particular testimony or argument you’ve made, okay? Is this landing with this jury?

I have to support this jury, because throughout this entire trial I felt they were really stone-faced as a whole. When I wasn’t questioning a witness there, I tried to get an opinion from them one way or another. I wish I could say it was the moment. But they were really impressive poker-faced throughout the trial.

People have compared it to the “Blurred Lines” case. You had an artist here who was much more active in actually participating in the defense in court. Toward the end of the trial, the Plantiffs’ lawyer warned the jury not to be “fascinated” by him, which wouldn’t be the reason you’d think you’d clearly won. But is there anything that you think has been particularly successful in getting him to the stand?

Every copyright case is different because you’re dealing with the songs you’re dealing with. So just on a very basic level, just in the songs themselves, it was very different from “Blurred Lines”. Is there a herd The differences between this case and “Blurred Lines” and I’m sure you and I could probably talk about all these differences for a few hours. And in no way do I think they are limited to the artists in question.

I think getting Ed on the stand was a big deal for Ed. He’s being accused of doing something he hasn’t done in over seven years. And like us, she felt it was crucial that she tell her story and explain who her influences were, how she and Amy wrote this beautiful song, and also to respond to some of the evidence and theories the plaintiffs had tried. put forward in this case. So it was important for Ed to see who he is as an artist, for us, and for the court and the jury, because he was accused of some pretty serious things he didn’t do. That’s why it was important to us and to Ed that the jury see that he is a true artist; he is a prolific artist; he’s extremely talented – and showing them an idea of ​​how he and Amy (Wadge) came up with this song and how it differs from the manipulated versions of the tunes that the plaintiffs’ expert is trying to put forward. These were all important things to prove, and there’s no one better to prove it than Ed himself.

The plaintiffs had their own musicologists, and yours was yours. Many music experts will say that for a jury without an expert understanding of the technical aspects of music it is unfair to reduce it to another.

Look, is it okay to ask too much from a jury? – to understand music theory. They had a big job to do there. There’s a reason our expert is world-renowned. His honesty and abilities are truly extraordinary. Any musicologist should be able to analyze the relatively simple musical elements involved and explain this to a jury. We believe our expert does this very methodically, carefully and accurately. I won’t say more about the plaintiff’s expert than I did during the trial, and I think my cross-examination proved that. But it is clear that the jury took our expert’s analysis on behalf of the plaintiffs.

You said the jury was stone-faced. Still, the court interview seemed to have had a few carefree moments… Given the seriousness of what was at stake, did you feel there was any moment?

What you saw was what you got when Ed stepped onto the podium. I’ve come to know him quite well over the last few weeks and needless to say that he is an incredibly talented songwriter and artist, but he is simply an extraordinary person and overcame this challenge with great sacrifice. stand up for songwriters. He felt that this was something he had to do, and I think that in and of itself says a lot. And I think you can have joyful moments in the stands. I would like to think that some people enjoyed watching the “Access of Awesome” video that we played for the jury to show that you can play any type of tune over and over again when songs have similar basic progressions. Again. So I would like to think that there are definitely some more light-hearted moments. It’s hard to know what resonates with people.

On the podium, behind the scenes, and now that it’s all over, how would you describe his demeanor? She looked grateful in her statement later on, but was also pretty frustrated that she had to miss her grandmother’s funeral this week to testify, and overall, this was all in the first place.

I don’t want to go too far to speak for Ed, I think his statement says it all. Absolutely happy with the decision. He feels right, but he feels right for all songwriters, not just himself. There were many, many, many songwriters reaching out to support what he was doing during this trial, and he felt an enormous obligation because of it. It’s a big load on your shoulders. There were dozens and dozens of foreigners reaching out to us. I, only songwriters and musicology professors and music consumers who all support Ed and the potential impact of this case on songwriting. So I don’t know how Ed is feeling today. I think he has a lot of work. [Sheeran’s new album came out Friday.] But I know it’s a combination of the jury getting it right and being really excited that this has to stop, as she testified. I think he meant those words. He won’t say words he doesn’t mean.

He said, ‘I will not be a piggy bank’. While this is often the easiest way out, do you agree that it is important to take some of these types of cases to court and not reach a settlement, and that most such cases are settled?

Yes. But it’s up to that artist and that defender to do it. There’s a time and place for everything, right? And sometimes, as you pointed out, things can get resolved for business reasons. Sometimes this happens and no one is happy about it. These cases can be distracting and quite expensive. If they take these artists and songwriters and tear them away from songwriting sessions and studios where they have to focus on legal battles, we’re not where any of us should want them to be. We should all want them to make great music in the studio. So I give Ed a tremendous honor for taking this on. And hopefully, this decision will minimize the number of times artists in the future have to ask themselves: Do I really want to take this to court? This will hopefully give us more and more reasons to reject things earlier.

Would this have a deterrent effect in such cases? If they have to pay legal fees, there is some penalty for them. But other lawyers have said that those willing to file these cases will never be scarce. What effect do you see it having?

I guess my easy answer to that would be: Ask me in a year. I’d like to think this would send a clear message to claimants that no one can own the essential music elements. No one can have chord progressions or an anticipation or a few casual lyrics or pitch sequences. And we hope it gives at least a percentage of potential plaintiffs a significant pause before pursuing a claim that should never have been pursued.

The so-called “smoldering gun” by the plaintiffs’ lawyers – which your side said was “gapping” in the closing argument – was the recorded mix where Sheeran performed “Thinking Loud” and “Let’s Get Started” in concert. It is easy for someone who has seen many concerts over the years to think of similar instances where someone has done something similar. Elvis Costello, for example, did this a lot and played the Bob Dylan museum opening last year and included “Underground Home Longing Blues” in “Pump It Up” to show how this kind of talking blues had influenced him. . It’s unlikely that Dylan would suddenly sue him once they’re friends or acquaintances…

Among other reasons.

But people felt It would be frightening for music fans if something like this never happened again, or at least not without an extremely brave artist. Worried that shuffle play in court would affect the jury? [Sheeran’s team asked to have the recording excluded, but the judge eventually allowed it.]

I mean, we always got the same reaction you just described, it’s just one artist playing two songs and it has a somewhat similar basic progression. There’s an endless, endless, and endless amount of music that can be mixed or interpolated – or whatever phrase you want to use; I guess we all tend to use the word mashup. And it means nothing. But of course you have to be prepared to deal with the evidence the other party wants to add, so we had Ed review a set of evidence. others just like any other artist, mashups to show how he was influenced by songs or how he mixed songs just because it sounded good. He’s an entertainer. People want to have fun. And now the idea that combining two songs would expose someone to an alleged copying or infringement after the fact is absurd.

You were representing Ed, not the music business as a whole, but you were supposed to feel the ingrained attention from so many writers and people in the music industry. Did you have the feeling that people were looking to see how this would turn out as part of history too, or was this just another case on the list?

It definitely occurred to me. Look, I’ve been handling cases like this, I hate to reveal it, but it’s been thirty years now. And so I knew how clearly we were focused primarily on Ed and this particular case, but given the seldom that these cases went to court and the amount of attention this case would undoubtedly receive, we knew that in some ways we were fighting a broader battle. And I think that really fueled our motivation and inspiration a lot more.

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