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Singer Ed Sheeran settles intellectual property suit

News and Notes Focused on the 3 Public Faces of IP Law

  • Brand Image Protection - Trademark Law
  • Visual Image Protection - Copyright Law
  • Personal Image Protection - Right of Publicity Law

The Image Protection Law blog has been created in order to share stories and information on the legal aspects of: 1) the marketplace reputation of a company or product captured in its trademark, 2) published or publicly-displayed artwork, photography, and any created visual design, and 3) use of a person's photograph or likeness for product promotion or other commercial purposes.

The "IP3" share at least one thing in common: Image is everything. In these posts let's look at what that means in the realm of intellectual property in the news, but let's also be prepared to explore if there's something more beyond "everything." Don't forget, the intellectual in "intellectual property" doesn't mean smart or brainy, although by nature true creators often are. The word is used to refer to any creation, i.e., a "product of the mind." While this blog will be regularly updated, you are encouraged to share your thoughts on these posts.

All artists have the right for their original work to be protected. This applies to paintings, digital art, fiction, plays and screenplays, poetry, lyrics and music itself. Recently, the music industry has been going through various copyright lawsuits regarding song compositions and the similarities between songs.

Last year, a $5.3 million dollar copyright lawsuit was awarded to the family of Marvin Gaye when it was determined that Robin Thicke's song "Blurred Lines" replicated one of Gaye's songs. Currently there are claims involving several top artists including Led Zeppelin, Sam Smith and Justin Bieber.

Singer and songwriter Ed Sheeran recently settled a $20 million dollar copyright suit with two songwriters, Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard, who claimed that Sheeran's song "Photograph" copied that of Matt Cardle's song "Amazing." Cardle won the British X Factor show in 2010. The songwriters of "Amazing" claimed that Sheeran and his writing partner had exploited and copied their work on a breathtaking scale, taking credit for the work of Harrington and Leonard.

It was proven in court through side by side comparisons that the two songs shared 39 identical notes. It is important to note that just having similarities between two songs is not always enough. Plaintiffs also had to prove that there was exposure of one song to another. The outcome of the settlement was not made public. It is important to protect one's own creative work. In order to see that someone is not profiting off the work of someone else, this often leads to intellectual property litigation. In such situations, having the assistance of an experienced attorney can help those involved move forward with a solid plan of legal action.

Source: CBS/AP, "Ed Sheeran settles copyright suit over hit 'Photograph'," April 11, 2017

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