Ed Sheeran won a lawsuit he brought against another artist who claimed that he copied a line from their song “Oh Why”. Sheeran took legal action against songwriters Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue after they asked to be named on the songwriting credits for “Shape of You,” which is the most-streamed song in history on Spotify.
The High Court in the United Kingdom handed down judgement in the copyright claim over the 2017 hit “Shape of You” on Tuesday as it sided with Ed Sheeran and rejected Chokri’s claim that Sheeran copied his 2015 song “Oh Why”. Sheeran had filed the lawsuit as a pre-emptive claim in 2018 that he did not copy the song.
Chokri, in his response, said the catchy hook “Oh I” in “Shape of You” was “strikingly similar” to the “Oh why” hook in his track.
Judge Antony Zacaroli, however, rejected the claim and granted judgment in favor of Sheeran where he found that the ‘Shape of You” artist had “neither deliberately nor subconsciously copied” the other song. He acknowledged there were “similarities between the one-bar phrase” in “Shape of You” and “Oh Why” but found they were not substantive to ground a claim.
“Such similarities are only a starting point for a possible infringement,” he said, adding that there are “differences between the relevant parts” of the songs, which “provide compelling evidence that the ‘Oh I’ phrase” in Sheeran’s song “originated from sources other than Oh Why.”
In the meantime, a frustrated Sheeran has hit out at “baseless copyright claims” made by other artists. YouTube is littered with videos by creators who claim that Sheeran is a “culture vulture,” and he allegedly ripped off the songs of other artists, including lesser-known artists who are people of color.
However, legally, that is not how copyright claims work, as the judge pointed out and as Sheeran addressed in a video after the lawsuit.
Sheeran took to social media where he addressed the social media trend “where a claim is made with the idea that a settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court, even if there’s no basis for the claim.”
“It’s really damaging to the songwriting industry. 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,” he said.
He also said that pop stars ought not to be viewed as “easy targets” for copyright claims.
“I hope that this ruling means in the future baseless claims like this can be avoided,” he said. “This really does have to end.”
Sheeran had taken the stand during the trial, where he said that he felt it was “was a tactic designed to extract a settlement” from him.
“I feel like claims like this are way too common now and have become a culture where a claim is made with the idea that a settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court, even if there’s no basis for the claim…. It should never have got as far as it did,” Sheeran said.
Sheeran has another copyright claim trial coming in the United States for $100 million by the owner of the rights to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On”.
The owner claims that Sheeran copied parts of the song on his 2014 chart-topper “Thinking Out Loud.”
He has also settled cases in the past, which he said was because lawyers advised him to rather than because he did something wrong.