Ed Sheeran accused of being a “magpie” who “borrows” from other musicians in court case

"He is...a magpie. He borrows ideas and throws them into his songs, sometimes he will acknowledge it but sometimes he won’t"

Ed Sheeran’s court case into the copyright of ‘Shape Of You’ has begun today (March 4).

He appeared at the High Court this morning for the start of a three-week legal battle over the copyright of his hit ‘÷’ single.

Sheeran is involved in a dispute with two musicians who claim his 2017 track borrows parts of their song ‘Oh Why’, which was released in March 2015.


Sami Chokri (who performs under Sami Switch) and Ross O’Donoghue claim Sheeran’s song is similar to “particular lines and phrases” of their own song.

Sheeran and his co-writers, Steven McCutcheon and John McDaid, were barred by music licensing body PRS for Music from collecting an estimated £20million in royalties from the performances or broadcasts of Shape of You after the songwriters of ‘Oh Why’ accused him of “appropriating” their music.

They accused him of partaking “consciously or subconsciously in the habit of appropriating the compositional skill and labour of other songwriters”.

Chokri claims that he sent the track to Sheeran’s close inner circle in a bid to work with the star, but later heard the chorus on ‘Shape Of You’ – which became the biggest selling single of 2017 in the UK. Last year, it became the first song to hit three billion streams.


Sheeran denied the claims and had previously issued legal proceedings in May 2018, asking the High Court to declare that he and the song’s co-authors had not infringed Chokri and O’Donoghue’s copyright.

However, two months later, the pair issued their own claim for “copyright infringement, damages and an account of profits in relation to the alleged infringement”, according to court documents.

In a November 2020 ruling, Judge Francesca Kaye said the parties involved “anticipated that they would incur costs in the region of £3million between them on this dispute”.

The case, which is being held before Mr Justice Zacaroli, is expected to last three weeks.

Ed Sheeran at this year's BRIT Awards
Ed Sheeran at this year’s BRIT Awards. CREDIT: Karwai Tang/WireImage

Today, in court, Sheeran was accused of being a “magpie” who “borrows” ideas from other artists.

Andrew Sutcliffe QC, for Chokri and O’Donoghue, asked “how does Ed Sheeran write his music?”

He went on to ask whether he “makes things up as he goes along” during songwriting sessions…Or is his songwriting process in truth more nuanced and less spontaneous…involving the collection and development of ideas over time which reference and interpolate other artists. This is the defendants’ case” (via The Guardian).

He continued: “Mr Sheeran is undoubtedly very talented, he is a genius. But he is also a magpie. He borrows ideas and throws them into his songs, sometimes he will acknowledge it but sometimes he won’t” adding that it “depends on who you are and whether he thinks he can get away with it”.

Sheeran has previously paid the writers behind TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’ a credit on ‘Shape of You’ after comparisons were made between the two.

In the High Court previously, Sheeran’s legal team said the musician and his co-writers have no recollection of having heard ‘Oh Why’ before the legal battle. They all “vehemently deny” allegations of copying.

Speaking about the song 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.”

You May Like