Ed Sheeran has emerged successful from a copyright battle that reached the U.K. High Court. Sheeran, alongside his co-writers John McDaid and producer Steven McCutcheon, was sued by Sami Chokri who claimed that his 2015 song "Oh I" had been plagiarised during the making of "Shape Of You." The 2017 Sheeran single was a global hit and is the most played song on Spotify of all time.
During an 11 day trial in March a judge heard Chokri's argument that his song, released under his artist name Sami Switch, was too similar to the Sheeran track, released two years after his, for it to be a coinicidence. In their defence, Sheeran, McDaid, and McCutcheon argued that they had not even heard "Oh Why" when they wrote their song.
Judge Antony Zacaroli ruled that Sheeran had "neither deliberately nor subconsciously copied" Chokri's song, though he acknowledged there were "similarities between the one-bar phrase" in "Shape of You" and "Oh Why." This, ultimately, was not enough to convince the judge of guilt on Sheeran's part. He also ruled that Sheeran had, most likely, not heard "Oh Why" before.
In a statement released after the verdict was delivered on Wednesday, Sheeran said Chokri's claims were "baseless" and called on songwriters to support one another rather than pursuing legal action.
Check out both songs below alongside Sheeran's statement.
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. 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. 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.