Judge Sides With Ed Sheeran In 'Shape Of You' Lawsuit
A judge in London ruled Wednesday that Ed Sheeran and his fellow “Shape of You” writers Johnny McDaid and Steve Mac “neither deliberately nor subconsciously” copied a melody from another song.
Justice Zacaroli said there were “similarities between Sheeran’s 2017 hit and “Oh Why,” a 2015 song by Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue, but these similarities “are only the starting point for a possible infringement” of copyright.
The judge also said he does not believe Sheeran had ever heard Chokri’s song.
In a video message he shared on social media, Sheeran celebrated the legal victory but lashed out at songwriters who sue famous songwriters.
“I feel like claims like this are way too common now and have become a culture where a claim is made with the idea that settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court, even if there’s no base to the claim,” he said. “It’s really damaging to the songwriting industry. There are only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music. Coincidence is bound to happen.
“This really does have to end.”
Chokri and O’Donoghue had alleged the “Oh I” refrain in “Shape Of You” was inspired by the “Oh why” refrain in their song.
Sheeran, Steven McCutcheon (aka Steve Mac) and Johnny McDaid have been unable to collect millions of dollars in royalties from “Shape of You” while the case was before the court. (The writers of TLC’s 1999 hit “No Scrubs” were given credits on “Shape of You” following its release due to similarities.)
During the 11-day trial, Sheeran testified he is focused on crafting original songs. “I do refer to other works on occasion when I write, as do many songwriters,” he said. “If there is a reference to another work, I notify my team so that steps can be taken to obtain clearance.
“I have been as scrupulous as I possibly can and have even given credits to people who I believe may have been no more than a mere influence for a songwriting element. This is because I want to treat other songwriters fairly.”
In a statement issued after the verdict, Sheeran, McDaid and Mac lamented the cost of defending themselves against the lawsuit.
“There is more than just a financial cost. There is a cost on creativity. When we are tangled up in lawsuits, we are not making music or playing shows,” it read.
“There is a cost on our mental health. The stress this causes on all sides is immense. It affects so many aspects of our everyday lives and the lives of our families and friends. We are not corporations. We are not entities. We are human beings. We are songwriters.”
The statement added: “Our message to songwriters everywhere is: Please support each other. Be kind to one another. Let’s continue to cultivate a spirit of community and creativity.”
Listen to music from Ed Sheeran & Johnny McDaid