Ed Sheeran’s 2017 hit Shape Of You does not infringe another artist’s copyright, a High Court judge has ruled.
At a trial last month, the singer and his Shape Of You co-writers, Snow Patrol’s John McDaid and producer Steven McCutcheon, faced accusations that they ripped off the 2015 song Oh Why by Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue.
In a ruling on Wednesday, Mr Justice Zacaroli concluded that Sheeran “neither deliberately nor subconsciously” copied a phrase from Oh Why when writing Shape Of You.
Ed Sheeran appearing at court PA
. Sami Chokri outside the Rolls Building at the High Court in central London
The singer-songwriter and his co-authors originally launched legal proceedings in May 2018, asking the High Court to declare they had not infringed Chokri and O’Donoghue’s copyright.
Two months later, Chokri – a grime artist who performs under the name Sami Switch – and O’Donoghue issued their own claim for “copyright infringement, damages and an account of profits in relation to the alleged infringement”.
The pair alleged that an “Oh I” hook in Shape Of You is “strikingly similar” to an “Oh Why” refrain in their own track.
During the 11-day trial at the Rolls Building in London, Sheeran denied he “borrows” ideas from unknown songwriters without acknowledgement and insisted he “always tried to be completely fair” in crediting people who contribute to his albums.
The singer told the court he was trying to “clear my name” and denied using litigation to “intimidate” Chokri and O’Donoghue into abandoning the copyright dispute.
Lawyers for the Oh Why co-writers labelled Sheeran a “magpie”, alleging that he “habitually copies” other artists and that it was “extremely likely” he had previously heard Oh Why.
Chokri told the trial he felt “robbed” by the music star and was “shocked” when he first heard Shape Of You on the radio.
But lawyers for Sheeran, McDaid and McCutcheon said the allegations against them were “impossible to hold”, with the evidence pointing to Shape Of You being an “independent creation”.
Sheeran, McDaid and McCutcheon have released a joint statement.
They 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 lawsuits, 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. 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.”