British singer Ed Sheeran has won a copyright row over his biggest ever hit, following accusations of plagiarism from a fellow UK artiste.
Sami Chokri, a grime musician who performs as Sami Switch, had accused Sheeran of lifting parts of his song for Sheeran’s 2017 release, Shape of You.
Chokri claimed that the key “Oh I” hook in Sheeran’s track closely resembled the one in “Oh Why,” a 2015 single by Chokri and his songwriting partner, Ross O’Donoghue.
But in a ruling at a London High Court Wednesday, Judge Antony Zacaroli cleared Sheeran of the allegations.
“I am satisfied that Mr. Sheeran did not subconsciously copy” Chokri’s song, the Judge ruled. He added that although there are similarities between the two tracks, there are also significant differences.”
A tense, emotional trial
The High Court ruling follows an 11-day-trial hearing that saw Sheeran appear in court to defend his composition.
The singer, who brought the case to court in 2018, denied the copyright breach claims. His lawyer said neither Sheeran nor his co-writers knew of Chokri’s song before they wrote Shape of You.
But Chokri, speaking in court, said he felt “robbed.”
Music experts examining the two tracks as part of the hearing had differing opinions. One told the court that plagiarism was “unlikely,” while another noted that similarities were “numerous and striking,” UK broadcaster Sky News reported.
In a video released after the ruling, Sheeran said the claim was “baseless” and “damaging” to the music industry.
“I’m not an entity, I’m a human being,” he said. “It’s become a culture where a claim is made with the idea that a settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court.”
Chokri did not immediately provide a statement.
Streaming platform Spotify said in December that Shape of You was its most played song ever after the track garnered 3 billion streams.
sl/fb (Reuters, AP)