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Ed Sheeran Denies Shape of You Copyright Claim during Court Trial


Wed 09 Mar 2022 | 11:41 AM
Yara Sameh

English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran performed a part of his 2017 mega-hit "Shape Of You" in court on Tuesday in a copyright trial over the song, and said melodies can sound similar without being copied.

Sheeran is in a legal battle with Sami Chokri, who is known as Sami Switch, and music producer Ross O'Donoghue, who claims "Shape of You" infringes "particular lines and phrases" from their 2015 song "Oh Why".

On his second day of questioning by Chokri and O'Donoghue's lawyer Andrew Sutcliffe, Sheeran performed the "Oh I" hook and lines from songs including Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" in the same key in a demonstration of how melodies can sound alike.

Chokri and O'Donoghue noted the "Oh I" hook in "Shape Of You" is "strikingly similar" to the "Oh Why" hook in their song and it was extremely likely Sheeran had previously heard the track.

The chart-topper and his co-writers denied these allegations.

Asked about the similarities between the "Oh Why" and "Oh I" hooks, Sheeran repeatedly affirmed to the High Court in London: "They're both pentatonic scales and they both use vowels."

Sutcliffe questioned him extensively over the writing of the song in October 2016 with co-authors Steven McCutcheon and John McDaid, and changes were made as it was developed.

The court was played recordings of Sheeran singing the hook in different pitches, called stacking.

"It sounds like you were singing 'Oh Why'," Sutcliffe told Sheeran, who replied: "I was singing 'Oh I'. The lyric is 'Oh I, I'm in love with your body'. The lyric 'Oh Why, I'm in love with your body' does not make sense,".

Sheeran added that an early "Shape of You" version had "Heya" as a hook but was changed after sounding similar to a line in "No Diggity" by Blackstreet.

The legal battle between the two parties dates back to 2018 when Sheeran, McCutcheon, and McDaid asked the High Court to declare they had not infringed Chokri and O'Donoghue's copyright for "Oh Why". Chokri and O'Donogue later filed a counterclaim alleging infringement.

Sutcliffe pointed out Sheeran, McDaid, and McCutcheon's original move aimed to deter later claims due to large legal costs.

The chart-topper denied this, adding: "Me, Johnny, and Steve are here to clear our name".

On Monday, Sheeran said he had not been aware of Switch at the time he is accused of ripping off parts of "Oh Why", and had never heard the song before the court case.

He became briefly irked when a piece of his unreleased music was played. The court was told that the wrong folder on McCutcheon's laptop had been accidentally opened.