Shape Of You: Ed Sheeran defends hit song in copyright legal battle
British pop singer Ed Sheeran has given evidence at the High Court this morning as his three-week copyright case over the hit song Shape of You continues.
Sheeran is involved in a dispute with two songwriters Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue who claim that the 2017 tune rips off parts of their song Oh Why.
According to coverage from Sky News, Sheeran told the court that he rejects the claim made during the opening day in court last Friday that he “borrows ideas and throws them into his songs, sometimes he will acknowledge it but sometimes he won’t”.
The implication was that the pop star credited larger artists, like Jay-Z or Taylor Swift, but failed to recognise smaller artists, such as Chokri and O’Donoghue.
Sheeran, who is worth an estimated £147m, was also questioned about tweets that were sent to him him by Sami Switch in 2011, and the suggestion was that he knew of the artist and his music.
Chokri and O’Donoghue’s legal team argue that the evidence is “overwhelming” that at the time of writing the song, Sheeran’s songwriting process involved collecting ideas rather than spontaneity. The 31-year-old singer rejected this argument.
Andrew Sutcliffe QC for Chokri and O’Donoghue said the crux of this case is ‘How does Ed Sheeran write his music?’ and whether he ‘makes things up as he goes along’ in song writing sessions.
Discussing the case, John Coldham, intellectual property partner at the law firm Gowling WLG, said: “Copyright infringement involves taking a “substantial part” of the original work. There are often notes or phrases that find their way from one piece of music to another, and often there is little to complain about when it happens.”
“First, the person bringing the claim has to prove that there has been copying – this is not always easy unless the similarities are so great that it is for the defendant to prove they did not copy.
“That is what appears to be the subject of the current arguments. Assuming copying is found to have taken place, they still need to prove that a substantial part has been taken – the test is qualitative, that is, is what has been copied enough to be said to have taken the artistic skill and labour of the claimant.”
“This can be a nuanced and subjective analysis, so it is difficult to predict how this case will turn out.”