Ed Sheeran has been accused of stealing parts of a song for his 2017 hit, “Shape of You,” appearing in court today (March 7) to deny such claims. Per The Independent, the singer-songwriter, 31, has been called a “magpie” who allegedly “borrows” ideas from lesser-known musicians. Songwriters Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue are suing Sheeran for copying “particular lines and phrases” from their song, “Oh Why,” claiming that Sheeran’s refrain of the words “Oh I” is “strikingly similar” to theirs.
“Oh Why” was released by Chokri under the name Sami Switch in 2015. Listen below:
Sheeran denied these allegations, telling the court he had cleared parts of songs with “lots” of unknown artists. It was Sheeran and his team who first launched legal proceedings over the song in 2018, requesting the High Court declare they had not infringed Chokri and O’Donoghue’s copyright. However, Chorki and O’Donoghue retaliated by issuing their own claim of “copyright infringement, damages and an account of profits in retaliation to the alleged infringement” in the current trial.
Judge Antony Zacaroli listened to both songs in court, with Chokri and O’Donoghue’s lawyer, Andrew Sutcliffe, telling him they “sound almost identical.” According to reports, Sheeran didn’t react as the songs were played. Sutcliffe called Sheeran a “magpie” who “borrows ideas” stating, “This, of course, does not by itself prove that copying has taken place, but it’s a vital starting point.”
Sheeran’s lawyers previously told the court that the singer and the song’s co-writers have no memory of ever hearing the song “Oh Why.” Per the BBC, Sheeran said in written evidence that the contested element of “Shape of You” was “very short” and the relevant parts of both songs were “entirely commonplace.” He added, “Even so, if I had heard ‘Oh Why’ at the time and had referenced it, I would have taken steps to clear it. I have always tried to be completely fair in crediting anyone who makes any contribution to any song I write. I do refer to other works on occasion when I write, as do many songwriters. If there is a reference to another work, I notify my team so that steps can be taken to obtain clearance. 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.”
The legal battle is expected to last three weeks; Royalties for the song have been frozen since 2018. After the release of “Shape of You,” Sheeran added the team behind TLC’s 1999 single “No Scrubs” to the song’s writing credits after some commentators pointed out similarities.