A U.K. High Court ruled on Wednesday that Sheeran had not plagiarised the 2015 song “Oh Why” by Sami Chokri.
In his ruling, Judge Antony Zacaroli said that Sheeran had “neither deliberately nor subconsciously copied” Chokri’s work. He added that there were “similarities between the one-bar phrase” in “Shape of You” and “Oh Why,” saying, “such similarities are only a starting point for a possible infringement” of copyright.
After studying both songs, Zacaroli concluded that 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.'”
Addressing the accusation that Sheeran had listened to “Oh Why” before composing “Shape of You,” Zacaroli said: “I find, as a matter of fact, that he had not heard it,” adding that there was only a “speculative foundation” on this claim by the defense.
Sheeran issued a video statement after the verdict. “Whilst we’re obviously happy with the result I feel like claims like this are way too common now and we’ve become a culture where a claim is made with the idea that settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court, even if there is no base to the claim. It’s really damaging to the songwriting industry,” Sheeran said.
“There’s only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music. Coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 songs are being released every day on Spotify. That’s 22 million songs a year and there’s only 12 notes that are available,” Sheeran added.
“I don’t want to take anything away from the pain and hurt suffered from 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. Lawsuits are not a pleasant experience. And I hope that this ruling it means in the future baseless claims like this can be avoided. It really does have to end.”
Sheeran is credited as the author of “Shape of You” alongside Snow Patrol singer Johnny McDaid and producer Steven McCutcheon (professionally known as Steve Mac).
“Me Johnny and Steve are very grateful for all the support sent to us by fellow songwriters over the last few weeks. Hopefully we can all get back to writing songs rather than having to prove that you can write them,” Sheeran said.
Ed’s been dealing with a lawsuit recently and he wanted to share a few words about it all pic.twitter.com/hnKm7VFcor
— Ed Sheeran HQ (@edsheeran) April 6, 2022
The verdict is the culmination of a four-year legal battle between Sheeran and songwriters Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue, which included a 11-day trial in London in March.
Chokri, a grime artist, is better known under his pseudonym Sami Switch. O’Donoghue is a producer. They claimed that “Shape of You” bears similarities to Chakri’s single “Oh Why.”
In 2018 Sheeran, McDaid and McCutcheon — alongside Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Rokstone Music Limited, Polar Patrol Music and Kobalt Music — issued legal proceedings against Chokri and O’Donoghue in a bid to get a legal declaration saying there was no copyright infringement.
Two months later, Chokri and O’Donoghue issued a counterclaim alleging copyright infringement and asking for damages and an account of profits, according to reports.
“Shape of You” was a huge hit following its release and in 2021 it became the first Spotify track to hit three billion streams.
It is not the first time Sheeran has been sued over copyright infringement. In 2016 he was sued over his single “Photograph,” and two years later was sued for $100 million over “Thinking Out Loud.”
The lawsuit over “Photograph” was settled out of court but the battle over “Thinking Out Loud” is believed to still be ongoing.