Ed Sheeran has won his copyright case at the High Court over claims that he plagiarised hit song ‘Shape Of You’ from two other writers.
Sheeran along with two of his co-writers – Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid and producer Steve McCutcheon – had been accused of plagiarising part of a track called ‘Oh Why’ by Sami Chokri, who performs under the alias Sami Switch.
Chokri claimed that Sheeran’s 2017 hit infringed “particular lines and phrases” of his 2015 song. He and his co-writer Ross O’Donoghue further alleged that the main “Oh I” hook in ‘Shape Of You’ is “strikingly similar” to the “Oh Why” refrain in their own song.
Chokri also claimed that he and Sheeran had “overlapping circles” of artists, writers and producers in common, stating that there had been a “concerted plan” to bring ‘Oh Why’ to Sheeran’s attention, were denied by Sheeran’s party.
Sheeran and his co-authors, denied all allegations of copying, claiming that they don’t remember hearing ‘Oh Why’ before the claims were lodged.
Now, after an 11 day trial, Justice Zacaroli ruled this morning (April 6) that Sheeran “neither deliberately nor subconsciously” copied a phrase from ‘Oh Why’ when writing ‘Shape of You.’
Zacaroli did acknowledge there were “similarities between the one-bar phrase” in ‘Shape Of You’ and ‘Oh Why’, but added that “such similarities are only a starting point for a possible infringement” of copyright.
He went on to say there were “differences between the relevant parts” of the songs, which “provide compelling evidence that the ‘Oh I’ phrase” in ‘Shape Of You’ “originated from sources other than ‘Oh Why'”.
He said there was only a “speculative foundation” that Sheeran had head Chokri’s song before writing ‘Shape of You’. He added: “I find, as a matter of fact, that he had not heard it,” he said.
In a lengthy joint statement following the verdict, Sheeran, McDaid and Mac said: “Here was a lot of talk throughout this case about cost. But there is more than just a financial cost. There is a cost on creativity. When we are tangled up in law suits, we are not making music or playing shows.
“There is a cost on our mental health. The stress this causes on all sides is immense. It affects so many aspects of our everyday lives and the lives of our families and friends. We are not corporations. We are not entities. We are human beings. We are songwriters. We do not want to diminish the hurt and pain anyone has suffered through this, and at the same time, we feel it is important to acknowledge that we too have had our own hurts and life struggles throughout the course of this process.
“There is an impact on both us and the wider circle of songwriters everywhere. Our hope in having gone through all of this, is that it shows that there is a need for a safe space for allsongwriters to be creative, and free to express their hearts. That is why we all got into this in the first place. Everyone should be able to freely express themselves in music, in art and do so fearlessly.
“At the same time, we believe that there should be due process for legitimate and warranted copyright protection. However, that is not the same as having a culture where unwarranted claims are easily brought. This is not constructive or conducive to a culture of creativity.
“We are grateful that Mr. Justice Zacaroli has delivered a clear and considered judgment which supports the position we have argued from the outset. ‘Shape Of You’ is original. We did not copy the Defendants’ song.
“We respect the music of those who’ve come before us and have inspired us along the way, whoever they are. We have always sought to clear or to acknowledge our influences and collaborators. It doesn’t matter how successful something appears to be, we still respect it. It is so painful to hear someone publicly, and aggressively, challenge your integrity.
“It is so painful to have to defend yourself against accusations that you have done something that you haven’t done and would never do.
“We are very grateful for all the messages of love, hope and support we received throughout the course of this case from songwriters everywhere. Thank you also to our publishers, who stood shoulder to shoulder with us at every step of the way. We are privileged to do what we do, and we know that. We want to live in a world where we are free to do what we do, openly and honorably.
“While this has been one of the most difficult things we have ever been through in our professional lives, we will continue to stand up against baseless claims, and protect our rights and the integrity of our musical creativity, so we that can continue to make music, always.”
The statement concluded: “Our message to songwriters everywhere is: Please support each other. Be kind to one another. Let’s continue to cultivate a spirit of community and creativity.”
Sheeran also released a video statement about the result, which you can watch here:
Previously, Sheeran and his co-writers launched legal proceedings in May 2018, requesting that the High Court declare they hadn’t infringed copyright.
In July that year Chokri and O’Donoghue lodged their own claim for “copyright infringement, damages and an account of profits in relation to the alleged infringement”.
Speaking about ‘Shape Of You’ earning over three billion streams last year, Sheeran said he couldn’t be more “chuffed” about the news, calling it, “absolutely insane”, before discussing the origin of the song.
“[‘Shape Of You’] wasn’t really meant to make the album,” he explained, “but when I finished making the song, Ben Cook, from my label, said it had to be a single – but I wanted ‘Castle On The Hill’ to be the single. We put both songs out at once and… I was wrong. Here we are with ‘Shape of You’ at three billion.”
This is a breaking news story – more to follow.