Copyright infringement; fair game, or damaging to creative freedom?

Ed Sheeran is a master at crafting songs that appeal to a particular feeling that can’t quite be put in words; but the closest thing to that feeling would have to be nostalgia.

Do you recall the first time you heard Photograph by Ed Sheeran?

I do. When I first heard it, I had been single for close to two years, but I did not feel any less touched than any person in a relationship would feel. It was therefore much to my surprise when allegations of copying and exploitation emerged with regard to that very song.

By the time the allegations had graduated into a $20 a million lawsuits, I was dismayed. I could not believe that a song I had become attached could have been illegally built off of the work of another artist.

Here is a short background on the case:

Ed Sheeran and his songwriting partner Johnny Mcdaid (a member of the band Snow Patrol), who has been credited as the official writers of the song, are being accused by former X Factor winner Matt Cardle of copying
his song ‘Amazing’ note for note. The official term used in the lawsuit was unabashedly taking credit for the song.

Songwriters Thomas Leonard and Martin Harrington, who are responsible for Amazing, feel that Photograph was a direct rip off of it, and as a result, they felt that they were justified in coming after him. Harrington has written for stars such as Kylie Minogue, as well as doing plenty of other stellar work behind the scenes.

This lawsuit has led to an accidental spike in views of Amazing, a figure which now stands at 4.2 million on YouTube alone. However, not all bad news is without its detractors; its ratio of likes to dislikes is also alarming, with 21,000 likes and 7,000 likes. The possible explanation for this would be diehard Ed Sheeran fans who feel that the songwriters were wrong for going after their favorite artist.

I listened to Amazing, and I am not going to lie; the choruses of the two sons sound exactly like. As much as my view on this may be subjective, I feel that Photograph is a blatant copy of Amazing, and this is so disappointing to me. I feel almost embarrassed for Ed Sheeran and his team at the fact that they did this with no remorse and thought that they could get away with it. It is, therefore, no surprise that the lawsuit was settled out of
court, with both parties coming to a settlement on the matter.

This case is a further continuation of an emerging the trend of lawsuits with regard to copyright infringement. In 2015, a jury unanimously found Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams guilty of copyright infringement with regard to the song ‘Blurred Lines’; it was ruled that the
song infringed on ‘Got to Give It Up’ by Marvin Gaye, and $7.4 million was awarded to the family of Marvin Gaye. Pharrell was disappointed at the ruling, given its implication on creative freedom, but at what cost will you pursue your creative freedom?

In a ruling that went the other way, Jay Z won a similar trial in 2015 for his 1999 hit, Big Pimpin; the heir of an Egyptian composer went after them for what sounded like a product of the said composer’s music, but the case was dismissed.

Previously, Ed Sheeran’s Photograph was one of my favorite songs. Now, it’s not even my favorite song titled Photograph. Nickelback, anyone?