'Shape Of You' Songwriters Awarded $1.5M In Legal Costs

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Ed Sheeran and his “Shape Of You” co-writers have been awarded nearly $1.5 million in legal fees from two songwriters who accused them of copyright infringement.

Sheeran, Steve McCutcheon and Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid were accused by Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue in 2019 of copying the refrain from their 2015 song “Oh Why.”

But, after an 11-day trial in London, a judge ruled in April that the trio “neither deliberately nor subconsciously” copied the melody. Justice Zacaroli said there were “similarities” between the songs but they “are only the starting point for a possible infringement” of copyright.

In a statement issued after the verdict, Sheeran, McDaid and McCutcheon 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.”

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Millions of dollars in royalties were held up 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.)

The judgment on legal costs, which will be finalized at a forthcoming hearing, is likely to send a chill through songwriters considering making claims against famous ones – something Sheeran welcomes. “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 in a video message in April. “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.”

Sheeran was previously sued over his 2014 hit "Thinking Out Loud" due to alleged similarities to Marvin Gaye's 1973 song "Let's Get It On." In 2018, Sheeran settled a copyright infringement lawsuit from songwriters who alleged that his 2014 hit “Photograph” was a “note-for-note copying” of their 2009 song “Amazing.”

That same year, two songwriters filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Sheeran that claimed the melody of “The Rest Of Our Life” – which Sheeran wrote for country stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill – is ripped from their song “When I Found You.” The case was later settled.

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