Ed Sheeran releases statement following Shape Of You copyright lawsuit

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Ed Sheeran has released a video statement following a judge’s ruling that his huge 2017 hit Shape Of You did not copy another artist’s work – saying “baseless” copyright claims are “damaging” to the industry.

Sheeran and two of his co-writers – Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid and producer Steve McCutcheon, known as Steve Mac – had been accused of plagiarising part of a track called Oh Why by Sami Chokri, a grime artist who performs as Sami Switch.

In a video statement released after the High Court judge found in his favour, the star said while they are “obviously happy with the result”, he wanted to speak out about the issue.

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Sami Chokri and Ed Sheeran 0:28 Shape Of You v Oh Why

“I feel like 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’s no base for the claim,” he said. “It’s really damaging to the songwriting industry.

“There’s only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music. Coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 songs are being released every day on Spotify. That’s 22 million songs a year and there’s only 12 notes that are available.”

‘I’m a human being’

“I don’t want to take anything away from the pain and hurt suffered from 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.”

He concluded by thanking people for their support, adding: “Hopefully, we can all get back to writing songs rather than having to prove that we can write them.”

Songwriters’ joint statement

The three songwriters also issued a statement together following the ruling, saying the cost of the case was “more than just financial”.

They said: “There is a cost on creativity. When we are tangled up in lawsuits, 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.”

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The joint statement reiterated Sheeran’s words about not wanting to “diminish the hurt and pain anyone has suffered through this” but said “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” and that lawsuits also impact the “wider circle” of songwriters.

“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,” they said. “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.”

Image: Johnny McDaid, of Snow Patrol, was a co-writer on Shape Of You

A ‘message to songwriters everywhere’

The trio continued by saying they respect other artists and “have always sought to clear or to acknowledge our influences and collaborators” when credit is due – something they spoke about while giving evidence during the trial.

“It doesn’t matter how successful something appears to be, we still respect it,” they said.

“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.

“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.”

Following the 11-day trial at the High Court in March, Mr Justice Zacaroli ruled Sheeran “neither deliberately nor subconsciously” copied a hook from Oh Why when writing the “Oh I” phrase for Shape Of You.

While there are “similarities” between the hook and the phrase, he concluded there are also “significant differences”.

Shape Of You, from Sheeran’s Divide album, is the star’s biggest hit – with some 5.26 million chart sales (sales and streams combined) as of November 2021, according to Official Charts. It spent 13 consecutive weeks at number one in 2017 – the UK’s best-selling song of the year – and is the UK’s most-streamed song of all time, with 496 million plays.

Some £2.2 million in royalties was frozen during the dispute, the High Court heard during the trial. PRS For Music is now awaiting legal guidance on when royalties can be distributed.

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