Ed Sheeran was cleared from allegations that he stole his 2017 mega-hit “Shape of You” from another songwriter, a judge ruled in High Court on Wednesday (April 6). Per the New York Times, Justice Zacaroli said, “Mr. Sheeran neither deliberately nor subconsciously copied” the 2015 track “Oh Why,” by the British songwriter Sami Chokri, who records as Sami Switch.
There was “no more than speculative” evidence that Sheeran, 31, had even ever heard “Oh Why,” Justice Zacaroli added, dismissing Mr. Chokri’s claim of copyright infringement. The singer-songwriter still faces a pending trial in New York over “Thinking Out Loud,” which some of the owners of the rights to Marvin Gaye’s song, “Let’s Get It On” accuse Sheeran of copying.
As we earlier reported, on the track, the English singer repeatedly sings the hook “Oh, I,” which Chokri claims was based on a section of his song “Oh Why.”
During the hearing, Andrew Sutcliffe, Chokri’s attorney, said Sheeran was “undoubtedly very talented,” but added, “He is also a magpie. He borrows ideas and throws them into his songs.” Sutcliffe claimed that Sheeran only sometimes credited the songwriters that he borrowed from. After “Shape of You” was released, the song’s credits were amended to add the three writers of TLC’s 1999 hit “No Scrubs,” whose melody, as fans noted at the time, bore a resemblance to parts of “Shape of You.”
Sheeran’s lawyer told the court that “Oh Why” had only received 12,914 plays on YouTube in the two years following its release, and had been played only twice on British radio, meaning few people had a chance to hear it. However, Chokri claimed that he knew Ed personally and that he had once met him at Nando’s (a chicken restaurant). Mr. Sheeran must have heard the song “through the many points of access that me and my team have shared,” Mr. Chokri said. Sheeran denied Chokri’s claim of meeting him and copying his song. At one point in the trial, he sang parts of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” and Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” to demonstrate that the disputed melody in “Shape of You” was common in pop music.
In his ruling, Justice Zacaroli said such coincidences “are not uncommon,” adding that even if Sheeran was seeking inspiration for the track, “Oh Why” was “far from an obvious source.” Shortly after the ruling, Ed took to Instagram, writing, “Dealing with a lawsuit recently. We won and I wanted to share a few words about it all.” He said in the video that as much as he was “happy with the result,” he felt “claims like this are way too common now.”
He added, “It’s so damaging to the song-writing community — there’s only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music. Coincidences are bound to happen if 60,000 songs are released every day.”
“I’m not an entity, I’m not a corporation, I’m a human being,” he concluded. “I’m a father, I’m a husband, I’m a son. Lawsuits are not a pleasant experience and I hope with this ruling, it means in the future, baseless claims like this will be avoided. It really does have to end.”