Two Australian musicians have filed a copyright infringement complaint against Ed Sheeran and country music singers Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, among others, accusing the stars of ripping off one of their songs.
Sean Carey, a former guitarist in the band Thirsty Merc, and keyboardist and songwriter Beau Golden say The Rest Of Our Life, a song by McGraw and Hill and co-written by Sheeran, is substantially similar to their track When I Found You.
Australian singer Jasmine Rae released When I Found You under her name in 2015, and it was the most played song on Australian country radio, according to the complaint, filed in the US District Court in New York. Rae is not listed as a plaintiff.
“The copying is, in many instances, verbatim, note-for-note copying of important and original elements of the song, and is obvious to the ordinary observer,” Richard Busch, the lawyer for the Australian pair, said in the filing.
Busch successfully represented the family of Marvin Gaye in 2015 in their high-profile copyright action over the Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams song Blurred Lines.
He has also gone after Sheeran before, when the British pop star was accused of appropriation over his hit Photograph.
The three Australians discovered the similarities between the songs in December, when a fan tweeted Rae asking if she had heard the new song by McGraw and Hill “because it ‘sounds remarkably like When I Found You'”.
The musicians checked it out, and were unhappy. They talked about what steps they should take.
At this point, according to the complaint, things got more complicated.
The filing alleges Tim Holland, Rae’s boyfriend, knew about the similarities of the songs before the McGraw/Hill track was released because of his job with Sony Music Australia.
“Plaintiffs became suspicious that not only was Mr Holland aware of the copying of When I Found You by the Defendant Writers far in advance of the Infringing Song/Sound Recordings’ release, but also that he was instrumental in bringing Plaintiffs’ work to the attention of the Defendants and likely provided access to it,” the filing states.
“Indeed, it strains credibility to believe that it is just a coincidence that the Infringing Song/Infringing Sound Recording, a blatant note-for-note copy of the song, was created without Mr. Holland’s providing access, when Mr. Holland is the boyfriend of one of the writers of the song.”
Sony Music Australia declined to comment.
However, the complaint also suggests Sheeran may have heard the song on the radio while he was touring Australia.
“There are a plethora of additional ways in which the Defendant Writers could have heard When I Found You, not the least of which being the popularity of the Song on Spotify and YouTube,” it says.
The McGraw/Hill song has been popular, with more than 8 million streams of Spotify. The album of the same name went to number two on the Billboard charts.