Irish superstar Ed Sheeran and his song writing team were recently hit with a $20 million copyright infringement lawsuit alleging that Sheeran’s hit song “Photograph” is a “note-for-note copying” of Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard’s 2009 song “Amazing.” According to the Hollywood Reporter, instead of disputing the technical musical issues of whether there was infringement, Sheeran’s lawyers are arguing that the court ought to dismiss the case on the grounds that the plaintiffs’ complaint is excessively wordy and unclear, thereby violating Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The heart of the issue is the plaintiffs’ sprawling 44-page complaint against Sheeran and ten other defendants that elaborately and, presumably excessively, details the similarities between the two songs and includes musical notation. Sheeran’s lawyers have labeled the complaint “prolix and repetitive,” consisting of “breathtakingly long paragraphs” and “argumentative allegations made mostly on information and belief,” and thus assert that they should not be required to assume the arduous task of answering such an improper pleading. Furthermore, the defense argues that the plaintiffs have failed to direct specific allegations toward each defendant and have instead simply lumped all the defendants together in “sweeping, generalized allegations,” making it impossible for the defendants to respond. The case is currently pending before a California federal judge and Sheeran’s legal team hopes to dismiss the complaint for improper structure, thus ending this multi-million-dollar suit before it even begins.
Prudence Ng is an Entertainment Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2019).