IP & Litigation

Ed Sheeran denies copyright claims during court trials of his hit track ‘Shape of You’

/ / Ed Sheeran denies copyright claims during court trials of his hit track ‘Shape of You’

Ed Sheeran’s song “Shape of You” released on 6 January 2017, became a massive hit and gained widespread popularity all across the world. Recently, the Shape of You singer was surrounded by a controversy revolving around the song. The popular singer landed himself in legal trouble in a copyright lawsuit that has been filed over his hit track. 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. 

The British Singer was alleged of stealing ideas from songwriters Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue. The duo claimed that “Shape of You” was similar to Chakri’s track “Oh Why” and filed a case in court. After which Ed Sheeran headed to the court for the legal battle. Sheeran created “Shape of You” along with co-writers Steve Mac and Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid, who were also a part of the hearing.

Two songwriters allege that the song infringes “particular lines and phrases” of their composition. They argue that Sheeran’s tune ‘Oh I’ hook in Shape Of You is “strikingly similar” to an ‘Oh Why’.

British Singer Ed Sheeran denies all the claims made by Sami Chakri and Ross O’Donoghue and clarifies that he had cleared parts of songs with lots of unknown artists. The songwriters’ lawyer claimed that Sheeran “borrows ideas and throws them into his songs, sometimes he will acknowledge it but sometimes he won’t”. Sheeran denied the claim stating he is not someone who will steal others’ work without acknowledgement. He also gave an example of Shivers and Visiting Hours. 

The British Singer does refer to other works on occasion when he writes, as it is done by many songwriters. In case if there is any reference to another work, he notifies it to his team so that steps can be taken to obtain clearance. He contented, “I have been as scrupulous as I possibly can and have even given credits to people who I believe may have been no more than a mere influence for a songwriting element. This is because I want to treat other songwriters fairly.”

Sheeran testifies that he mostly works in collaboration with other writers, and that it’s often hard to identify who has written each individual part of a song once it’s finished. Sheeran has also explained his writing partnership with his Shape of You co-writer Johnny McDaid that they were very much like a game of tennis if one would say one thing the other would say something back. It was fun working with him.

There was also a mention of his other song known as “Photograph” which also had the same copyright issue. It was said that “Photograph” was the relevant topic here because it was the subject of a separate copyright claim from Martin Harrington and Thomas Leonard, who wrote Matt Cardle’s 2011 single Amazing. The duo were eventually given a share of the song’s royalties and a £4m lump sum in an out-of-court settlement.

Sheeran said that he settled the claim because it was a “nuisance” and “more trouble than it was worth”. Asked why he would pay out such a “substantial” sum instead of taking the case to court, he says he did so on the advice of his lawyers.

Mr Sutcliffe (who was the lawyer from the other two musicians) said Sheeran had known about Chokri before “Shape of You” was written because the grime artist had tweeted Sheeran directly, and the singer had given a shout out to Sami Switch on stage in 2011. To this, Sheeran replied that this is not true.

Sheeran contended that the music entrepreneur, who died last month, didn’t share songs like “Oh Why” with him. Instead, they would talk about football, his Mom and  about theatre.

Ed Sheeran also said to the court he had quit social media in 2015 for “the whole of 2016” he was “off” social media and was using a “flip phone from Tesco”.

In May 2018, Sheeran and his co-writers issued proceedings asking the High Court to declare they had not infringed Chokri and O’Donoghue’s copyright.

The pair then issued a counterclaim for copyright infringement. The trial is expected to continue for about three weeks.



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