Ed Sheeran wins his three-week legal battle this morning following accusations that he ripped off other artists for his 2017 hit Shape of You.
Sheeran was involved in the dispute with two songwriters Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue who claimed that he was a “music magpie”, stealing parts of their song Oh Why.
Sheeran told the court last month that he rejects the claim 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. Meanwhile, Sheeran claimed he had never heard the song Oh Why before the case.
The music icon, who is worth an estimated £147m, was also questioned about tweets that were sent to him by Sami Switch in 2011, and the suggestion being that he knew of the artist and his music.
Chokri and O’Donoghue’s legal team argued 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.
Following his win, Sheeran said in a video posted on Twitter: “I feel like claims like this are way too common now and it has 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 basis for the claim”.
Ian Mill QC, representing Sheeran, said the case had been “traumatising” for the artist.
The stakes were high: “Shape of You” is the most-streamed song of all time on Spotify, with more than three billion plays.
Isaac Murdy, intellectual property specialist at law firm, Shakespeare Martineau, commented on the ruling: “This ruling indicates that the UK IP courts aren’t going to support American-style speculative litigation. It will take more than a short section of ‘basic minor pentatonic pattern’ which is ‘entirely commonplace’, to establish a successful claim of copyright infringement. All music is derivative to a certain extent, and in the words of Elvis Costello ‘It’s how rock & roll works’. This ruling shows that clear similarities throughout two songs are needed to form a substantial case.”
“Copyright is designed to encourage creativity by rewarding original creators, and this case shows how the law attempts to balance the rights of creators at every stage in a song’s development.”
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