Ed Sheeran was in the High Court recently in relation to a copyright infringement claim over Sami Chokri’s 2015 song Oh Why. Chokri claimed that the hook in Sheeran’s 2017 major hit Shape of You had been copied from his own song. According to music streaming giant Spotify, Shape of You is one of its most streamed songs ever, so it is no surprise why Chokri alleged infringement.
The case was heard at trial last month and in order to succeed Chokri had to prove that Sheeran had access to (i.e. had listened to) his song. Sheeran claimed that he did not remember hearing Oh Why before the legal dispute and even took to the stand to sing Nina Simone’s Feeling Good and Blackstreet’s No Diggity to explain how many common elements pop songs share.
The Court ruled today that Sheeran had "neither deliberately nor subconsciously copied" Chokri's song and acknowledged that, whilst there were "similarities between the one-bar phrase", this is only a starting point for assessing infringement.
Following the judgment, Sheeran took to social media to voice his concerns over the wealth of music industry litigation we see these days. He said that “there’s only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music” and that such “baseless claims” are “way too common” and seriously damaging to the songwriting industry.
Sheeran wrote Shape of You with John McDaid of Snow Patrol fame and producer Steven McCutcheon, both of whom also denied ever hearing Oh Why. In a joint statement, the trio criticised the impact of litigation on creativity, saying that “Everyone should be able to freely express themselves in music, in art and do so fearlessly. At the same time, we believe that there should be due process for legitimate and warranted copyright protection. However, that is not the same as having a culture where unwarranted claims are easily brought. This is not constructive or conducive to a culture of creativity.”
This certainly is not the first copyright infringement claim Sheeran has faced but the judgment in his favour today indicates that the UK music industry is not prepared to hop on the bandwagon of the compensation culture prevalent in the US.
"Coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 songs are being released every day on Spotify. That's 22 million songs a year and there's only 12 notes that are available."