The case was brought against Sheeran by an emerging British artist called Sami Chokri (aka Sami Switch), who claimed that Sheeran ripped off the hook in his song Oh why, which was released in 2015.
The verdict was delivered in Sheeran’s favor in a UK High Court on Wednesday (April 6).
Shape of You was written by Sheeran, Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid and producer Steve Mac. It was released in 2017.
Chokri and songwriter Ross O’Donoghue launched the legal battle four years ago, and it went to trial in London last month.
Judge Antony Zacaroli ruled that Sheeran and his collaborators “neither deliberately nor subconsciously copied” Chokri’s song.
Zacaroli also referred to “similarities between the one-bar phrase” in the two songs as “only a starting point for a possible infringement”.
He added: “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 Sheeran sought out inspiration from other songs to come up with it.”
He concluded that Sheeran “had not heard” Chokri’s song, in response to the claim that he heard it prior to writing his own song.
In a video statement published on Instagram following the ruling, Sheeran notes that, although the defendants are “happy with the result”, they “feel like claims like this away to common now and have become a culture where a claim is made with the result” idea that a settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court, even if there’s no basis for the claim”.
“There’s only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music. Coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 songs are being released everyday on Spotify.”
He added: “This is really damaging to the songwriting industry. There’s only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music. Coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 songs are being released everyday on Spotify.
Copyright infringement lawsuits have become increasingly common in the music business in recent years.
Just last month, Dua Lipa was sued for alleged copyright infringement over her hit single Levitating.
Other high profile cases include have come in August 2020, when Kendrick Lamar was sued for copyright infringement by a musician called Terrance Hayes, over Lamar’s hit single loyaltyreleased in 2017 and taken from his fourth album, Damn,
That same month, a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against Lizzo (aka Melissa Jefferson) by three songwriters – Justin and Jeremiah Raisen and Justin ‘Yves’ Rothman – was dismissed by a judge in California.
Sheeran himself has been sued for alleged copyright infringement previously on different occasions, over his other hits Photograph (in 2016) and Thinking out Loud (in 2018).
You can read Sheeran’s full statement below:
Hey guys, me Johnny and Steve have made a joint statement that will be press release on the outcome of this case but I wanted to make a small video to talk about it a bit because I’ve not really been able to say anything whilst it’s been going on.
Whilst we are obviously happy with the result, I feel like claims like this away to common now and have become a culture where a claim is made with the idea that a settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court, even if there’s no basis for the claim.
It is really damaging to the songwriting industry. There’s only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music. Coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 songs are being released everyday on Spotify.
That’s 22 million songs a year and there’s only 12 notes that are available. I don’t want to take anything away from the pain and hurt suffered from both sides of this case, but I just want to say I’m not an entity. I’m not a corporation. I’m a human being. I’m a father, I’m a husband. I’m a son.
Lawsuits are not a pleasant experience and I hope with this ruling, it means in the future baseless claims like this can be avoided. This really does have to end. Me, Johnny and Steve are very grateful for all the support sent to us by fellow songwriters over the last few weeks. Hopefully we can all get back to writing songs rather than having to prove that we can write them. Thank you.
Music Business Worldwide