Ed Sheeran and co-writers awarded over £900,000 in legal costs after victory in copyright battle

Ed Sheeran and his co-songwriters have been awarded more than £900,000 in legal costs after winning their High Court copyright trial over the hit Shape Of You earlier this year.

At a trial in March, the singer and co-writers Snow Patrol’s John McDaid and producer Steven McCutcheon faced accusations that their track ripped off a 2015 song by grime artist Sami Switch and Ross O’Donoghue.

However, Mr Justice Zacaroli concluded Mr Sheeran ‘neither deliberately nor subconsciously’ copied a phrase in the song.

Ed Sheeran and his co-songwriters have been awarded more than £900,000 in legal costs after winning their High Court copyright trial over the hit Shape Of You earlier this year

Sami Chokri (pictured outside the court earlier this year) and Ross O'Donoghue had claimed the popstar ripped off their song 2015 song Oh Why with his 2017 tune Shape of You

Ross O'Donoghue is pictured arriving at the Rolls Building, at the High Court in central London, last month during the case

Sami Chokri (left, outside the court earlier this year) and Ross O’Donoghue (right) had claimed the popstar ripped off their song 2015 song Oh Why with his 2017 tune Shape of You

Songwriters Sami Chokri and Ross O'Donoghue claimed Sheeran's 2017 hit song 'Shape of You', which Johnny McDaid (pictured last month) helped to write, infringes parts of one of their songs

Songwriters Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue claimed Sheeran’s 2017 hit song ‘Shape of You’, which Johnny McDaid (pictured last month) helped to write, infringes parts of one of their songs

Mr Sheeran, his co-authors and their music companies originally launched legal proceedings in May 2018, asking the High Court to declare they had not infringed the copyright of the grime star – real name Sami Chokri – and Mr O’Donoghue.

Two months later, Mr Chokri and Mr O’Donoghue issued their own claim for ‘copyright infringement, damages and an account of profits in relation to the alleged infringement’.

The pair had alleged that an ‘Oh I’ hook in Shape Of You is ‘strikingly similar’ to an ‘Oh Why’ refrain in their own track.

But in his previous judgment, Mr Justice Zacaroli concluded ‘Mr Sheeran had not heard Oh Why and in any event that he did not deliberately copy the Oh I phrase from the Oh Why hook.’

He dismissed the counterclaim and granted a declaration to Mr Sheeran and his fellow songwriters that they had not infringed the copyright in Oh Why.

Following the ruling, lawyers for Mr Chokri and Mr O’Donoghue had said that Mr Sheeran and the other claimants should pay their own legal costs, claiming they had failed to provide documents and demonstrated ‘awkwardness and opacity’.

However, in a ruling today, Mr Justice Zacaroli said that the lesser-known songwriters should pay the legal costs, ordering an interim payment of £916,200.

A further hearing is expected to assess and finalise the sums.

‘I consider it is appropriate that the claimants’ success is reflected in an order that their costs are paid by the defendants, without reduction save for that which is made as part of the process of detailed assessment,’ Mr Justice Zacaroli said.

The judge dismissed arguments that the defendants would have changed their approach to the case if some documents and explanations about how Shape Of You was written had been provided earlier.

The 31-year-old (pictured in a court sketch) said there were 'only so many quotes and so many chords used in pop music' meaning 'coincidences are bound to happen'

The 31-year-old (pictured in a court sketch) said there were ‘only so many quotes and so many chords used in pop music’ meaning ‘coincidences are bound to happen’

Mr Justice Zacaroli said: ‘None of the disclosure or explanations, once provided to the defendants, caused them to alter their approach at all.

‘Instead, they not only maintained their attack on Mr Sheeran but broadened it by asserting that he was a ‘magpie’ who habitually misappropriated song ideas from other writers.’

During the 11-day trial in central London, Mr Sheeran denied he ‘borrows’ ideas from unknown songwriters without acknowledgement and insisted he ‘always tried to be completely fair’ in crediting people who contribute to his albums.

In a video message after the ruling in April, Mr Sheeran said: ‘Claims like this are way too 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 is no basis for the claim, and it’s really damaging to the songwriting industry.

‘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.’

‘This is the beginning not the end’: Grime artist Sami Switch breaks silence after losing copyright court battle with Ed Sheeran as judge rules Shape of You was not a copy of his song Oh Why leaving him facing ‘£1MILLION’ bill

A grime artist who lost his copyright court battle with Ed Sheeran insisted earlier this year: ‘This is the beginning not the end.’

Sami Chokri, who performs as Sami Switch, shared a video of two people swimming in the sea on his Instagram page following the judge’s verdict.

He wrote a cryptic caption with the post, adding: ‘Through despair I found an instant highway to gratitude. I am rich, of love, friends and family.’

The rapper’s comments came after a judge rejected his claim Sheeran had ripped off his 2015 song Oh Why in the 2017 tune Shape of You.

In a ruling, Mr Justice Zacaroli concluded Sheeran ‘neither deliberately nor subconsciously’ copied a phrase.

He said: ‘While there are similarities between the OW Hook (Oh Why) and the OI Phrase (Shape of You), there are also significant differences. I am satisfied Mr Sheeran did not subconsciously copy Oh Why in creating Shape.’

After the verdict, Sheeran took to Instagram to blast the ‘really damaging’ copyright claim culture that is ripping through the music industry.

The popstar, 31, lashed out at the ‘baseless claims’ being brought against singer-songwriters ‘with the idea a settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court’.

He said he was ‘obviously happy with the result’ but added: ‘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.’

Sheeran is now expected to be able to claim back £2.2million in royalties for the song that were frozen during the court fight.

But legal experts estimated Chokri will have to fork out ‘high hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not over a £1million’ after losing the battle.

Chokri posted a cryptic Instagram video after the case, with a video of people swimming in the sea and the message: 'Through despair I found an instant highway to gratitude. I am rich, of love, friends and family. This is the beginning not the end'

Chokri posted a cryptic Instagram video after the case, with a video of people swimming in the sea and the message: 'Through despair I found an instant highway to gratitude. I am rich, of love, friends and family. This is the beginning not the end'

Chokri posted a cryptic Instagram video after the case, with a video of people swimming in the sea and the message: ‘Through despair I found an instant highway to gratitude. I am rich, of love, friends and family. This is the beginning not the end’

Sami Chokri (pictured outside the court last month) and Ross O'Donoghue had claimed the popstar ripped off their song 2015 song Oh Why with his 2017 tune Shape of You

Ross O'Donoghue is pictured arriving at the Rolls Building, at the High Court in central London, last month during the case

Sami Chokri (left, outside the court last month) and Ross O’Donoghue (right) had claimed the popstar ripped off their song 2015 song Oh Why with his 2017 tune Shape of You

At the trial last month, the singer and his co-writers, Snow Patrol's John McDaid and producer Steven McCutcheon, faced accusations they ripped off Oh Why by Chokri (pictured, a court sketch) and O'Donoghue

At the trial last month, the singer and his co-writers, Snow Patrol’s John McDaid and producer Steven McCutcheon, faced accusations they ripped off Oh Why by Chokri (pictured, a court sketch) and O’Donoghue

Ed Sheeran has called for an end to the 'really damaging' copyright claim culture that is ripping through the music industry after winning his High Court case against a grime artist over his song Shape of You. He is pictured outside court last month

Ed Sheeran has called for an end to the ‘really damaging’ copyright claim culture that is ripping through the music industry after winning his High Court case against a grime artist over his song Shape of You. He is pictured outside court last month 

The 31-year-old (pictured in a court sketch) said there were 'only so many quotes and so many chords used in pop music' meaning 'coincidences are bound to happen'

The 31-year-old (pictured in a court sketch) said there were ‘only so many quotes and so many chords used in pop music’ meaning ‘coincidences are bound to happen’

The poet turned musician who tried to take on Ed Sheeran… who is Sami Chokri?

Sami Chokri is a British grime artist from Caversham in Reading who took Ed Sheeran to court over the popstar’s song Shape of You.

The 28-year-old developed a love for music at primary school before turning to grime when he was 16.

He told the Reading Chronicle in 2012: ‘When I started secondary school [Highdown in Caversham] there were a lot of people who were very into grime music, and I started seeing that I could take it further, take it seriously, and then I started actually making songs.

‘I was 16 when I met Twan Pemberton through a friend and he gave me the opportunity to get into a real, professional studio instead of just a corner of the bedroom, and get it out there properly.’

Chokri, who performs under the name Sami Switch, has released two albums as well as a number of singles.

Temperature and Victoria came out last year, Isolation in 2020 and in 2016 he recorded Stay Steady.

His albums, Solice in 2015 and Trouble in 2016, came after the mixtapes Carpe Diem and Memento Mori in 2012.

He became well known through SB:TV, which was run by Sheeran’s friend Jamal Edwards, who died earlier this year.

The rapper posted a video on Instagram of two people swimming in the sea with the caption: ‘Through despair I found an instant highway to gratitude.

‘I am rich, of love, friends and family. This is the beginning not the end.’ His management has been approached for further comment.

At the trial last month, Sheeran and his co-writers, Snow Patrol’s John McDaid and producer Steven McCutcheon, faced accusations they ripped off Oh Why by Chokri and O’Donoghue.

But Mr Justice Zacaroli concluded Sheeran ‘neither deliberately nor subconsciously’ copied a phrase from Oh Why when writing Shape Of You.

The judge said: ‘While there are similarities between the OW Hook and the OI Phrase, there are also significant differences. I am satisfied that Mr Sheeran did not subconsciously copy Oh Why in creating Shape.’

Reacting to the verdict, Sheeran said on Instagram this morning: ‘I wanted to make a small video to talk about it a bit because I’ve not really been able to say anything while it’s been going on.

‘While we’re obviously happy with the result, I feel like claims like this are way too common now It’s become a culture where a claim is made with the idea a settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court even if there’s no base for the claim.

‘It’s really damaging to the some writing industry. there’s only so many quotes and so many chords used in pop music.

‘Coincidences are bound to happen if 60,000 songs are released every day on Spotify, that’s 22million songs a year and there’s only 12 notes available.

‘I don’t want to take anything away from the pain and hurt suffered by 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 get back to writing songs rather than having to prove that we can write them.’

He added in a joint statement with McDaid and Mac: ‘There was a lot of talk throughout this case about cost. But there is more than just a financial cost.

‘There is a cost on creativity. When we are tangled up in law suits, we are not making music or playing shows. There is a cost on our mental health.

‘The stress this causes on all sides is immense. It affects so many aspects of our everyday lives and the lives of our families and friends. We are not corporations. We are not entities. We are human beings. We are songwriters.

‘We do not want to diminish the hurt and pain anyone has suffered through this, and at the same time, we feel it is important to acknowledge that we too have had our own hurts and life struggles throughout the course of this process.

‘There is an impact on both us and the wider circle of songwriters everywhere. Our hope in having gone through all of this, is that it shows that there is a need for a safe space for all songwriters to be creative, and free to express their hearts.

‘That is why we all got into this in the first place. 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.

Sheeran said on Instagram this morning: 'I wanted to make a small video to talk about it a bit because I've not really been able to say anything while it's been going on'

Sheeran said on Instagram this morning: ‘I wanted to make a small video to talk about it a bit because I’ve not really been able to say anything while it’s been going on’

At the trial last month (pictured), the singer and his co-writers, Snow Patrol's John McDaid and producer Steven McCutcheon, faced accusations they ripped off Oh Why by Chokri and O'Donoghue

At the trial last month (pictured), the singer and his co-writers, Snow Patrol’s John McDaid and producer Steven McCutcheon, faced accusations they ripped off Oh Why by Chokri and O’Donoghue

Ed Sheeran is pictured with record producer Steve Mac after the Brit Awards in 2018. They were both taken to court over the song Shape of You

Ed Sheeran is pictured with record producer Steve Mac after the Brit Awards in 2018. They were both taken to court over the song Shape of You 

In a ruling on Wednesday, Mr Justice Zacaroli (pictured in a court sketch) concluded Sheeran 'neither deliberately nor subconsciously' copied a phrase

In a ruling on Wednesday, Mr Justice Zacaroli (pictured in a court sketch) concluded Sheeran ‘neither deliberately nor subconsciously’ copied a phrase

Ed Sheeran slams ‘baseless claims’ brought to court in Instagram post after winning his case

Ed Sheeran took to Instagram this morning to slam ‘baseless claims’ being brought to court as he hit out at the culture in the music industry.

He said: ‘I wanted to make a small video to talk about it a bit because I’ve not really been able to say anything while it’s been going on.

‘While we’re obviously happy with the result, I feel like claims like this are way too common now It’s become a culture where a claim is made with the idea a settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court even if there’s no base for the claim

‘It’s really damaging to the some writing industry. there’s only so many quotes and so many chords used in pop music.

‘Coincidences are bound to happen if 60,000 songs are released every day on Spotify, that’s 22million songs a year and there’s only 12 notes available.

‘I don’t want to take anything away from the pain and hurt suffered by 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 get back to writing songs rather than having to prove that we can write them.’ 

‘This is not constructive or conducive to a culture of creativity. We are grateful that Mr. Justice Zacaroli has delivered a clear and considered judgment which supports the position we have argued from the outset.

‘Shape of You’ is original. We did not copy the Defendants’ song. We respect the music of those who’ve come before us and have inspired us along the way, whoever they are.

‘We have always sought to clear or to acknowledge our influences and collaborators. It doesn’t matter how successful something appears to be, we still respect it.

‘It is so painful to hear someone publicly, and aggressively, challenge your integrity. It is so painful to have to defend yourself against accusations that you have done something that you haven’t done and would never do.

‘We are very grateful for all the messages of love, hope and support we received throughout the course of this case from songwriters everywhere.

‘Thank you also to our publishers, who stood shoulder to shoulder with us at every step of the way. We are privileged to do what we do, and we know that. We want to live in a world where we are free to do what we do, openly and honourably.

‘While this has been one of the most difficult things we have ever been through in our professional lives, we will continue to stand up against baseless claims, and protect our rights and the integrity of our musical creativity, so we that can continue to make music, always.

‘Our message to songwriters everywhere is: Please support each other. Be kind to one another. Let’s continue to cultivate a spirit of community and creativity.’

Sheeran and his co-authors originally launched legal proceedings in May 2018, asking the High Court to declare they had not infringed Chokri and O’Donoghue’s copyright.

Two months later, Chokri – a grime artist who performs under the name Sami Switch – and O’Donoghue issued their own claim for ‘copyright infringement, damages and an account of profits in relation to the alleged infringement’.

The pair alleged that an ‘Oh I’ hook in Shape Of You is ‘strikingly similar’ to an ‘Oh Why’ refrain in their own track.

But in his judgment, Mr Justice Zacaroli concluded ‘Mr Sheeran had not heard Oh Why and in any event that he did not deliberately copy the Oh I phrase from the Oh Why hook’.

He added: ‘Mr Chokri is undoubtedly a serious and talented songwriter and while his management were unsurprisingly trying to create some hype around the release of the Solace EP, it had limited success.

‘In my judgment, the possibility that these attempts might have led to it coming to Mr Sheeran’s attention – either because someone he was associated with played it to him or because he found it himself – is at best speculative.’

The judge said the phrases in the songs at the heart of the legal dispute ‘play very different roles’, with the Oh Why hook reflecting the track’s ‘slow, brooding and questioning mood’, while Shape of You’s Oh I phrase was ‘something catchy to fill the bar’ before the next part of the song.

He continued: ‘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 Mr Sheeran sought out inspiration from other songs to come up with it.’

During the 11-day trial at the Rolls Building in London, Sheeran denied he ‘borrows’ ideas from unknown songwriters without acknowledgement and insisted he ‘always tried to be completely fair’ in crediting people who contribute to his albums.

The singer told the court he was trying to ‘clear my name’ and denied using litigation to ‘intimidate’ Chokri and O’Donoghue into abandoning the copyright dispute.

Lawyers for the Oh Why co-writers labelled Sheeran a 'magpie', alleging he 'habitually copies' other artists and that it was 'extremely likely' he had previously heard Oh Why. Pictured: Chokri last month

Lawyers for the Oh Why co-writers labelled Sheeran a ‘magpie’, alleging he ‘habitually copies’ other artists and that it was ‘extremely likely’ he had previously heard Oh Why. Pictured: Chokri last month

Sami Chokri

Ross O'Donoghue arrives at the the Rolls Building in central London last month

Chokri and his singing partner Ross O’Donoghue (right, also seen arriving at the High Court last month) claim Sheeran copied aspects of their work

Ed Sheeran is pictured performing at the Brit Awards at the O2 Arena in London on February 8 ahead of his court battle over last month

Ed Sheeran is pictured performing at the Brit Awards at the O2 Arena in London on February 8 ahead of his court battle over last month

Ed Sheeran, Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid and record producer Steve Mac said court case had ‘a cost on mental health’:

Ed Sheeran, Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid and record producer Steve Mac said the case had had an impact on their mental health.

In a joint statement after the case, they said: ‘There was a lot of talk throughout this case about cost. But there is more than just a financial cost.

‘There is a cost on creativity. When we are tangled up in law suits, we are not making music or playing shows. There is a cost on our mental health.

‘The stress this causes on all sides is immense. It affects so many aspects of our everyday lives and the lives of our families and friends. We are not corporations. We are not entities. We are human beings. We are songwriters.

‘We do not want to diminish the hurt and pain anyone has suffered through this, and at the same time, we feel it is important to acknowledge that we too have had our own hurts and life struggles throughout the course of this process.

‘There is an impact on both us and the wider circle of songwriters everywhere. Our hope in having gone through all of this, is that it shows that there is a need for a safe space for all songwriters to be creative, and free to express their hearts.

‘That is why we all got into this in the first place. 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. We are grateful that Mr. Justice Zacaroli has delivered a clear and considered judgment which supports the position we have argued from the outset.

‘Shape of You’ is original. We did not copy the Defendants’ song. We respect the music of those who’ve come before us and have inspired us along the way, whoever they are.

‘We have always sought to clear or to acknowledge our influences and collaborators. It doesn’t matter how successful something appears to be, we still respect it.

‘It is so painful to hear someone publicly, and aggressively, challenge your integrity. It is so painful to have to defend yourself against accusations that you have done something that you haven’t done and would never do.

‘We are very grateful for all the messages of love, hope and support we received throughout the course of this case from songwriters everywhere.

‘Thank you also to our publishers, who stood shoulder to shoulder with us at every step of the way. We are privileged to do what we do, and we know that. We want to live in a world where we are free to do what we do, openly and honourably.

‘While this has been one of the most difficult things we have ever been through in our professional lives, we will continue to stand up against baseless claims, and protect our rights and the integrity of our musical creativity, so we that can continue to make music, always.

‘Our message to songwriters everywhere is: Please support each other. Be kind to one another. Let’s continue to cultivate a spirit of community and creativity.’

Lawyers for the Oh Why co-writers labelled Sheeran a ‘magpie’, alleging he ‘habitually copies’ other artists and that it was ‘extremely likely’ he had previously heard Oh Why.

Chokri told the trial he felt ‘robbed’ by the music star and was ‘shocked’ when he first heard Shape Of You on the radio.

But lawyers for Sheeran, McDaid and McCutcheon said the allegations against them were ‘impossible to hold’, with the evidence pointing to Shape Of You being an ‘independent creation’.

Sheeran was present throughout the trial in March and frequently burst into song and hummed musical scales and melodies when he took to the witness stand.

In one brief incident, the court was accidentally played a clip of unreleased material by Sheeran from McCutcheon’s computer.

All three Shape Of You co-authors denied allegations of copying and said they did not remember hearing Oh Why before the legal fight.

Ian Mill QC, representing the three men, said the legal dispute had been ‘deeply traumatising’, arguing the case should never have reached trial.

But the Oh Why co-writers’ lawyer, Andrew Sutcliffe QC, alleged Sheeran is an artist who ‘alters’ words and music belonging to others to ‘pass as original’.

He claimed Sheeran’s lawyers brought the legal proceedings because PRS for Music – the industry body that collects and distributes royalties – had ‘frozen’ payments for UK broadcast and performance income from Shape Of You.

It was also claimed Sheeran must have been aware of Chokri because they appeared on YouTube channel SBTV at about the same time, they shared friends, Chokri had sent messages to him on Twitter, and Sheeran had allegedly shouted his name at a performance.

Mr Sutcliffe suggested Sheeran ‘consciously or unconsciously’ had Oh Why in his head when Shape Of You was written at McCutcheon’s Rokstone Studios in west London in October 2016.

But Mr Mill said the Shape Of You co-writers were clear they had ‘no preconceived ideas’ when they went into the studio.

Isaac Murdy, intellectual property specialist at law firm, Shakespeare Martineau, said: ‘When a song is as successful as this, it becomes a tempting target for anyone who thinks they can rightfully claim a share of that success for themselves.

‘If you have a legitimate case for copyright infringement, for the right song, pursuing a claim can be a very shrewd investment of time and legal fees. However, as we’ve seen here, that investment is not without risk.

‘This ruling may embolden artists to be more brazen in ‘taking inspiration’ from each other, without fearing the consequences of copyright infringement.

‘While this makes the process of creating (and publishing) music easier, in some cases it might deprive smaller artists of income that should have gone to them.

‘It’s rare for a copyright infringement case to get this far in court. Often, they are settled outside of court, as it’s usually a less expensive result for both parties.

‘Clearly, Chokri believed he had a strong case, unfortunately it wasn’t strong enough and he now faces a considerable legal bill.

‘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.’

Colin Bell, head of intellectual property at independent law firm Brabners, said: ‘The judge’s decision represents a positive outcome for the wider recording industry.

‘Had the judge decided that copyright was infringed in this case it would have further opened the Pandora’s box in terms of future perceived musical copyright infringements.

‘Similarities’ between Sheeran’s Shape Of You and duo’s Oh Why

Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue alleged the 2017 hit Shape Of You infringed ‘particular lines and phrases’ of their own track, called Oh Why.

They claimed the melody of the famous hook of Sheeran’s smash hit, which says ‘oh-I-oh-I-oh-I-oh-I’ was copied from their own track. Their song, Oh Why, features a hook with the words ‘Oh-I-oh-I-oh-I-oh-I’.

The hooks to both songs were played in the court room during the case.

Sheeran made no reaction when part of Oh Why was played, or as part of his song was later played on the court’s speakers.

Short clips of early versions of Shape Of You were also played in court, as well as a clip of Mr Sheeran’s performance at Glastonbury in 2017. 

Andrew Sutcliffe QC, for Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue, claimed the two hooks were ‘almost identical’.

He added: ‘They sound almost identical, they are such that an ordinary, reasonable, experienced listener might think that perhaps one had come from the other.

‘This of course does not by itself prove that copying has taken place but it’s a vital starting point.’

But concluding the case, the judge said: ‘While there are similarities between the OW Hook and the OI Phrase, there are also significant differences. I am satisfied that Mr Sheeran did not subconsciously copy Oh Why in creating Shape.’

‘The decision should reduce the likelihood of more claims and settlements, particularly in the UK. That said, many will be carefully monitoring the outcome of Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it off’ case in the US which has the potential to give rise to more claims in relation to lyric-based infringements.’

He added: ‘There will be a significant level of irretrievable costs on either side. In terms of the claimants though, they will likely need to cover at least some of Ed Sheeran’s legal costs which have the potential to be in the high hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not over a £1million.’

Michael Gardner, Partner and Head of IP & Commercial at Wedlake Bell, said: ‘Ed Sheeran has won his High Court copyright case against Sami Chokri & Ross O’Donoghue.

‘Sheeran and his fellow claimants had sued them after the pair claimed that their copyright in part of their own song ‘Oh Why’ had been infringed by Sheeran’s massive hit ‘Shape of You’.

‘The case centred on just one small part of the song – ‘the hook’. Potentially, it could have been enough to amount to a ‘substantial part’ of the original work of copying was established.

‘Sheeran is no stranger to being sued by others over allegations he is a copyist. But in this case it was he who sued his accusers. He asked the court for a declaration that he had not infringed their copyright.

‘Sheeran was grilled in the witness box for the best part of two days by the defendants’ barrister. But the judge accepted his evidence that he hadn’t even heard of the defendants or their song before composing his own.

‘The judge also rejected various examples given of how Sheeran was supposedly a ‘musical magpie’ who was in the habit of copying from others to make his own music.

‘All in all, the case was very much a triumph for Sheeran and his fellow claimants.’

Mark Hill, Partner at Charles Russell Speechlys, added: ‘The judge has finally ruled on Ed Sheeran’s ‘traumatising’ trial finding that the singer-songwriter had not plagiarised the 2015 song Oh Why by Sami Chokri.

‘The judge ruled that Sheeran had ‘neither deliberately nor subconsciously copied’ Chokri’s song and that although there were similarities between the one-bar phrase in Shape of You and Oh Why, there were clearly differences between the relevant parts of the songs.

As Sheeran has said, ‘there’s only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music.’ This may be true, but one thing is for sure: this will not be the last claim of plagiarism we see from the music industry.

‘In terms of the legalities of these cases, they are always highly complex. Conclusions are never straightforward because the facts and decisions differ so greatly from case to case.

‘Part of the game today for the music industry is knowing how to deal with claims, perhaps by looking for an out of court settlement rather than a provable case for Court.’

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