British pop star Ed Sheeran did not commit plagiarism for his mega hit “Shape of You”, one of the most listened to songs in the world, the High Court in London concluded on Wednesday, dismissing two songwriters.
• Read also: In London, Ed Sheeran accused of plagiarism for “Shape Of You”
Ed Sheeran, 31, went to court himself to defend himself in this case, which he considered emblematic of abusive practices that undermine the music industry.
Judge Antony Zacaroli agreed with him: he did not copy, neither “deliberately” nor “unconsciously”, part of the melody of the song “Oh Why” (2015) by Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue for its planetary tube.
“Shape of You”, the best-selling title in the world in 2017, also has 3 billion plays on Spotify and almost 6 billion views on YouTube. It won the artist a Grammy.
According to the judge, there are “obvious similarities” between the two songs, with a melody resulting in particular from the minor pentatonic scale like “countless songs from pop, rock, folk and blues”, but also “significant differences “.
The two melodic phrases “play very different roles in their respective songs,” he added.
Saying he was “happy” with the outcome of the trial, the star regretted on Instagram that “requests like this are becoming too common”, with the objective of obtaining a financial agreement even if they are “unfounded”.
“It’s really damaging for musical composition,” he added, adding that “coincidences are bound to happen” given the limited number of notes available for the huge amount of songs produced around the world.
“I hope we can all get back to writing songs rather than having to prove we know how to write them,” he concluded.
During the trial, which lasted ten days in March, the two titles were broadcast – as well as, by mistake, an extract from one of his unreleased songs.
Ed Sheeran then denied “borrowing” ideas from little-known composers, while the plaintiffs’ lawyer, while acknowledging his “genius”, accused him of being “a magpie”, in reference to the bird which is sometimes accused of being a thief.
“He borrows ideas and throws them into his songs, sometimes he acknowledges it, sometimes he doesn’t,” he said: “It depends on who you are and if he thinks he can do it with impunity.”
Sami Chokri, known by the artist name Sami Switch, told him he was “shocked” when he first heard “Shape Of You” on the radio.
Ed Sheeran and his co-authors Steven McCutcheon and John McDaid had applied in May 2018 to the High Court for it to recognize that there had been no copyright infringement.
Two months later, in July, MM. Chokri and O’Donoghue had in turn started legal proceedings against them.
The payment of royalties linked to “Shape Of You”, estimated at 20 million pounds sterling (24 million euros at the current rate), had been suspended by the collective management organization PRS.
In 2017, Ed Sheeran was also the best-selling artist in the world, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), with his third album ‘Divide’ which includes the single ‘Shape Of You “.
This is not the first time the artist has been sued for plagiarism. In the United States, the heirs of soul legend Marvin Gaye have accused him of having taken a little too much inspiration from “Let’s Get It On” for his hit “Thinking Out Loud”.
He had also reached a financial agreement in the United States with authors who accused him of having plagiarized their song “Amazing” for his title “Photograph”. The British judge emphasized that there was no admission of liability in this case.