Breaking: Ed Sheeran wins ‘Shape of You’ copyright trial
The England and Wales High Court found ‘compelling evidence’ that ‘Shape of You’ did not infringe a songwriter’s earlier work
Ed Sheeran has won a copyright infringement trial centring on his 2017 hit ‘Shape of You’, the England and Wales High Court ruled this morning, April 6.
In the judgment, His Honour Justice Antony Zacaroli said there was “compelling evidence” that Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’ originated from sources other than the song he was accused of copying.
Singer-songwriter Sheeran was facing accusations that ‘Shape of You’ copied aspects from ‘Oh Why’, a 2015 song written by Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue, performed by Chokri under the alias Sami Switch. Sheeran denied copyright infringement.
The portion of ‘Shape of You’ questioned was the ‘oh I’ hook, which was alleged to be strikingly similar to an ‘oh why’ refrain in Switch’s work.
‘Shape of You’ is one of Sheeran’s most successful tracks and was number one in the singles charts of 34 countries.
In court last month, Andrew Sutcliffe QC, a barrister at 3VB in London acting for Chokri and O’Donoghue, described Sheeran as “an obsessive music squirrel” who “borrows ideas” from other artists.
But handing down judgment this morning, Zacaroli said that although there are similarities between the tracks, this threshold is “only a starting point” to a successful infringement claim.
To prove infringement under UK copyright law, it must be shown that a defendant likely had access to the allegedly infringed work and that a substantial portion must have been copied.
One of Switch’s arguments was that Sheeran must have encountered the song, as it appeared on well-known YouTube channel SBTV, of which Sheeran is a fan. Switch also noted that he had targeted Sheeran on Twitter in the hope of sparking interest in his work.
But Zacaroli said the evidence put forward to prove access was “no more than speculative” and found it was likely Sheeran had not heard ‘Oh I’.
In 2017, Sheeran faced a separate copyright allegation, which centred on another of his songs called ‘Photograph’. That case settled the same year.