Ed Sheeran arrives at High Court to continue fight against copyright claim


Ed Sheeran was seen arriving at the High Court today to continue his fight against a claim he copied parts of his 2017 hit Shape Of You from two little known songwriters.

The 31-year-old wore a dark suit, tie and face mask as he walked into the Rolls Building near St Paul’s Cathedral, where the hearing was scheduled to begin at 10.30am.

Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue allege Sheeran’s track infringes ‘particular lines and phrases’ from their own song, called Oh Why.

Ed Sheeran wore a dark suit, tie and face mask as he walked into the Rolls Building near St Paul's Cathedral this morning

Ed Sheeran wore a dark suit, tie and face mask as he walked into the Rolls Building near St Paul’s Cathedral this morning 

Sheeran and his co-writers for the song first issued legal proceedings in May 2018, asking the High Court to declare that they had not infringed Mr Chokri and Mr O’Donoghue’s copyright.

Two months later, in July 2018, the pair issued their own claim for ‘copyright infringement, damages and an account of profits in relation to the alleged infringement’, according to the latest ruling.

The battle caused royalties from the song to be suspended pending a court decision, while Sheeran – who is worth an estimated £147million – said his reputation had been sullied by the allegations.

Andrew Sutcliffe QC, for Mr Chokri and Mr O’Donoghue, has previously told the court the question at the heart of the case is ‘How does Ed Sheeran write his music?’ and whether he ‘makes things up as he goes along’ in songwriting sessions.

The claims concern his hit song, Shape Of You

The claims concern his hit song, Shape Of You 

The barrister said: ‘Or is his songwriting process in truth more nuanced and less spontaneous… involving the collection and development of ideas over time which reference and interpolate other artists. This is the defendants’ case.

‘Mr Sheeran is undoubtedly very talented, he is a genius. But he is also a magpie.

‘He borrows ideas and throws them into his songs, sometimes he will acknowledge it but sometimes he won’t.’

The barrister said this ‘depends on who you are and whether he thinks he can get away with it’.

Mr Sheeran’s lawyers previously said the singer and his co-writers have no recollection of having heard the song Oh Why before the legal battle and ‘vehemently deny’ the allegations of copying.

Ian Mill QC, for Mr Sheeran and his two co-writers, discussed whether the case would cover if the three songwriters had allegedly subconsciously or consciously copied the hook of the song Oh Why.

‘How can more than one person subconsciously copy something? That is completely inconceivable,’ Mr Mill said.

Sami Chokri arrives at the the Rolls Building in central London on Friday

Sami Chokri arrives at the the Rolls Building in central London on Friday

Mr Mill said a case of ‘conscious copying’ against Mr Sheeran and his co-authors would require ‘all three to have known at the time of writing that they were copying Oh Why’. 

‘Similarities’ between Sheeran’s Shape Of You and duo’s Oh Why 

Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue allege the 2017 hit Shape Of You infringes ‘particular lines and phrases’ of their own track, called Oh Why.

They claim the melody of the famous hook of Sheeran’s smash hit, which says ‘oh-I-oh-I-oh-I-oh-I’ was copied from their own track.

Their song, Oh Why, features a hook with the words ‘oh why, oh why, oh why’.

On Friday afternoon, the hooks to both songs were played in the court room. 

Sheeran made no reaction when part of Oh Why was played, or as part of his song was later played on the court’s speakers. 

Short clips of early versions of Shape Of You were also played in court, as well as a clip of Mr Sheeran’s performance at Glastonbury in 2017. 

Andrew Sutcliffe QC, for Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue, claimed the two hooks were ‘almost identical’.

He added: ‘They sound almost identical, they are such that an ordinary, reasonable, experienced listener might think that perhaps one had come from the other.

‘This of course does not by itself prove that copying has taken place but it’s a vital starting point.’

The High Court also heard that PRS for music – the industry body that collects and distributes royalties – had suspended payment to Mr Sheeran and his co-writers for the performances or broadcasts of Shape Of You.

The song was a worldwide hit, becoming the best-selling song of 2017 in the UK and the most streamed song in the history of Spotify.

Mr Sutcliffe later acknowledged that the Shape Of You creators were ‘very famous and very successful’.

He added: ‘They have had many hits, they have created many records and they have won many awards.’

But the barrister said the case was not about ‘how famous the claimants are, it boils down to that the defendants are not’.

He added: ‘They are not Shaggy, Coldplay, Rihanna or Jay-Z, if they were they would have been treated in a very different way.’

He said Mr Chokri and Mr O’Donoghue ‘are not aspiring artists’.

The barrister continued: ‘They are songwriters and very talented, who deserve the same respect as any other artist and due recognition where recognition is due.’

The hooks of both Shape Of You and Oh Why were played in the courtroom on Friday.

Sheeran made no reaction when part of Oh Why was played, or as part of his song was later played on the court’s speakers.

Andrew Sutcliffe QC, for Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue, said: ‘The similarity between the two hooks is striking and immediately apparent.

‘They sound almost identical, they are such that an ordinary, reasonable, experienced listener might think that perhaps one had come from the other.

‘This of course does not by itself prove that copying has taken place but it’s a vital starting point.’

Short clips of early versions of Shape Of You were later played in court and a clip of Mr Sheeran’s performance at Glastonbury in 2017 was shown.

The trial is expected to last up to three weeks.

Sami Chokri

Ross O'Donoghue arrives at the the Rolls Building in central London on Friday

Chokri and his singing partner Ross O’Donoghue (right, also seen arriving at the High Court on Friday) claim Sheeran copied aspects of their work 

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