Ed Sheeran has won a High Court battle over whether his 2017 hit Shape of You copied another artist's song.
Sheeran and his Shape Of You co-writers, Snow Patrol’s John McDaid and producer Steven McCutcheon, denied ripping off 2015 song Oh Why by Sami Chokri.
Chokri, a grime artist who performs under the name Sami Switch, and his co-writer Ross O’Donoghue, claimed an “Oh I” hook in Shape Of You is “strikingly similar” to an “Oh Why” refrain in their track.
The Shape Of You co-authors launched legal proceedings in May 2018, asking the High Court to declare they had not infringed Chokri and Mr O’Donoghue’s copyright. In July 2018, Chokri and Mr O’Donoghue issued their own claim for “copyright infringement, damages and an account of profits in relation to the alleged infringement”.
The ruling was made in a written judgement issued on Wednesday morning following an 11-day trial.
Mr Justice Zacaroli concluded that Mr Sheeran “neither deliberately nor subconsciously” copied a phrase from Oh Why when writing Shape of You.
Lawyers for Sheeran said in a statement: “The judgment is an emphatic vindication of the creative genius of Ed, Johnny and Steve – as they have always maintained, they created Shape Of You together, without copying from anyone else.”
In his ruling, Mr Justice Zacaroli said: “Listening to the sounds as a whole … the two phrases play very different roles in their respective songs.
“The OW Hook (in Oh Why) is the central part of the song and reflects the song’s slow, brooding and questioning mood.
“Without diminishing its importance, the OI Phrase (in Shape of You) plays a very different role – something catchy to fill the bar before each repeated phrase ‘I’m in love with your body’.
“The use of the first four notes of the rising minor pentatonic scale for the melody is so short, simple, commonplace and obvious in the context of the rest of the song that it is not credible that Mr Sheeran sought out inspiration from other songs to come up with it.
“As to the combination of elements upon which the defendants rely, even if Mr Sheeran had gone looking for inspiration, then Oh Why is far from an obvious source, given the stark contrast between the dark mood created by the OW Hook in Oh Why and the upbeat, dance feel that Mr Sheeran was looking to create with Shape.”
During the trial, the singer had told the court he was trying to “clear my name” and denied using litigation to “intimidate” Chokri and Mr O’Donoghue into abandoning the copyright dispute.
All three Shape Of You co-authors denied allegations of copying and said they do not remember hearing Oh Why before the legal fight.
Ian Mill QC, representing the three men, said the legal battle had been “deeply traumatising”, arguing the case should never have reached trial.
He claimed the case against them was “impossible to hold”, claiming evidence supported the argument that Shape of You was an “independent creation”.
But the Oh Why co-writers’ lawyer, Andrew Sutcliffe QC, labelled Sheeran a “magpie”, claiming he “habitually copies” other artists and that it was “extremely likely” he had previously heard Oh Why.