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Ed Sheeran wins High Court battle over ‘Shape Of You’ copyright claim

Sheeran and co-writer Jonny McDaid were ruled to have not copied the 2015 track from which the claim originated

By Nick Reilly

Ed Sheeran arrives at the High Court
Ed Sheeran arrives at the High Court (Picture: Alamy)

Ed Sheeran has won a major copyright battle over his 2017 hit ‘Shape Of You’ at the High Court.

The pop giant and his ‘Shape Of You’ co-writers, producer Steven Cutcheon and Snow Patrol’s Jonny McDaid, were accused of copying the 2015 track ‘Oh Why’ by Ross O’Donoghue and Sami Chokri.

But in a ruling delivered today (April 6), Mr Justice Zacaroli ruled that Sheeran “neither deliberately nor subconsciously” copied a key phrase from ‘Oh Why’ when penning his track.

Sheeran and his co-writers first launched legal action in May 2018, which asked the High Court to declare they had not infringed the copyright of O’Donoghue and Chokri.

Chokri, who performs under the stage name Sami Switch, teamed up with O’Donoghue months later to issue their own claim for “copyright infringement, damages and an account of profits in relation to the alleged infringement”.

The pair claimed that a hook which sees Chokri singing ‘Oh I’ was “strikingly similar” to an element in ‘Shape Of You’.

Responding to today’s verdict in an Instagram video, Sheeran said: “I wanted to make a small video to talk about it a bit because I’ve not really been able to say anything while it’s been going on.

“While we’re obviously happy with the result, I feel like claims like this are way too common now. It’s become a culture where a claim is made with the idea a settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court even if there’s no base for the claim.”

He went on: “It’s really damaging to the some writing industry. there’s only so many quotes and so many chords used in pop music. Coincidences are bound to happen if 60,000 songs are released every day on Spotify, that’s 22million songs a year and there’s only 12 notes available.

“I don’t want to take anything away from the pain and hurt suffered by both sides of this case But I just want to say I’m not an entity, I’m not a corporation, I’m a human being, I’m a father, I’m a husband, I’m a son.”

Sheeran concluded: “Lawsuits are not a pleasant experience and I hope with this ruling it means in the future baseless claims like this can be avoided This really does have to end. Me Jonny and Steve are very grateful for all the support sent to us by fellow songwriters over the last few weeks.

“Hopefully we can get back to writing songs rather than having to prove that we can write them.”

In a joint statement, McDaid, Sheeran and Cutcheon said: “”There 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.”

Ed Sheeran wears a blue velvet suit and dark blue tie against the BRIT Awards backdrop
Ed Sheeran (Photo: Rolling Stone UK)

They added: “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 all songwriters 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.”

They concluded: “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.

“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.”