Ed Sheeran was hit with a “concerted plan” to secure his interest in a songwriter who then accused him of copying one of his songs for ‘Shape Of You’, the High Court was told yesterday (March 15).
Sheeran and two of his co-writers, Johnny McDaid and Steve Mac, have been accused of lifting “particular lines and phrases” for the 2017 ‘÷’ single from a track called ‘Oh Why’ by Sami Switch (real name Sam Chokri).
The latter artist and his co-writer Ross O’Donoghue have alleged that Sheeran took the “oh I, oh I, oh I, oh I” hook from the aforementioned song, which was released back in 2015. Sheeran has “vehemently den[ied]” the claim and rejected the suggestion that he heard ‘Oh Why’ before he wrote ‘Shape Of You’ in October 2016.
McDaid, who is also a member of Snow Patrol, claimed in written evidence last week that he could not recall ever hearing ‘Oh Why’ “in any way” and said he was unaware of Sami Switch before the current legal case began.
Yesterday (March 15) the ongoing copyright trial heard that the former management company of Chokri made a “huge effort” to bring Sami Switch’s song to Sheeran’s attention (via The Guardian).
Lawyers for Chokri and O’Donoghue claimed that there is “clear, cogent and compelling” evidence to suggest that ‘Oh Why’ was widely available and sent to a some of Sheeran’s close friends and colleagues.
David May – managing director of Artists and Company (A&C), which once had Chokri on its roster – alleged in written evidence that the company had “a concerted plan to target Ed Sheeran in the hope of engaging his interest in Sami’s work” at the time ‘Oh Why’ was being promoted.
“We did not target any other artist in the same way,” he added.
May continued: “We felt that, if Ed Sheeran could see Sami’s work, he would recognise his talent. We saw this as a real possibility because of the connections that we had, and Sami had, to his circle.”
As for the industry figures that were allegedly approached, May mentioned the late SBTV founder Jamal Edwards, Rixton member Jake Roche and members of senior staff at Sheeran’s publisher.
Roche claimed in written evidence that he never listened to the Sami Switch track in question, while Edwards had said he did not remember hearing it.
Timothy Bowen, an A&C director, said that the firm “were surprised by what we thought was a blatant copying” after hearing ‘Shape Of You’ in 2017. He also claimed that Sheeran’s publishing team gave “short shrift and refused to engage with us at all”.
“We were upset that Ed Sheeran had not asked for clearance to include the relevant part of Oh Why into ‘Shape Of You’,” Bowen explained.
“Having made a huge effort to bring ‘Oh Why’ to Ed’s notice, the next thing we heard was a part of ‘Oh Why’ appearing on Ed’s song, ‘Shape Of You’, without any acknowledgement or request for permission.”
Sheeran and McDaid both deny that they copied the “oh I” section. Earlier this month, Sheeran sang snippets of Simone’s 1965 rendition of ‘Feeling Good’ and Blackstreet’s 1996 hit ‘No Diggity’ in court in an effort to illustrate how the melody in question is commonplace in pop music.
It came after lawyers for Chokri and O’Donoghue played audio clips from the recording sessions for ‘Shape Of You’ to the court, in which Sheeran could be heard saying that he needed to change the “oh I” part because it was “a bit close to the bone”.
In response, the singer told the court: “We thought it was a bit too close to ‘No Diggity’. I said that… we should change it.”
McDaid later said in written evidence that the idea of plagiarism was “abhorrent” to him, but acknowledged there was “nothing original” about the melody. “It is a very common melodic structure, in my experience,” he wrote.
Sam Chokri has since said that he felt “belittled” by Ed Sheeran’s lawyers. “I feel like I’ve been robbed by someone I respect, or respected,” he told the court.
“All I wanted to do was ask for an explanation. If I’d had one we wouldn’t have had to go through with this rubbish.”
Royalties from ‘Shape Of You’, estimated to be worth £20million, have been frozen since Chokri and O’Donoghue issued a claim for “copyright infringement, damages and an account of profits in relation to the alleged infringement” in July 2018.