Ed Sheeran denies ‘borrowing’ other songwriters’ ideas in High Court copyright battle over hit song Shape of You
ED Sheeran has denied ‘borrowing’ ideas from unknown songwriters without recognition, the High Court heard today.
Songwriters Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue claim the singer’s hit song Shape of You violates parts of one of their songs.
They say the chorus of Sheeran’s song, which says “oh I oh I oh I”, was cut from their “oh why oh why oh why” chorus.
On Friday, Andrew Sutcliffe QC, for the two songwriters, said Mr Sheeran “borrows ideas and throws them into his songs, sometimes he’ll recognize it but sometimes he won’t”.
The attorney alleged recognition hinged on the other artist’s notoriety, adding that the two songwriters “are not Shaggy, Coldplay, Rihanna or Jay-Z, if they were, they would have been treated in a very different way.”
At the start of his testimony on Monday, Ian Mill QC, for Mr Sheeran, asked: ‘Do you accept that you behave or have behaved in this way?’
Mr Sheeran said ‘no’, before adding: ‘The examples he used are obviously famous artists, two of whom are people I’ve made songs with.
Mr Sheeran continued that “if Mr Sutcliffe had done his research” he would have known there were “many” unknown artists with whom he had deleted parts of songs.
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He went on to give several examples of when he had erased aspects of songs with unknown artists, including sampling part of a song from the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer by an “unknown composer”.
“Not all of these examples are famous artists that we’ve erased songs with and that’s what I have to say about that,” he said.
Ed Sheeran appeared on the witness stand in a dark suit with a dark tie.
And as he described his songwriting process during the High Court trial, he denied having any premeditated ideas.
The singer told the court: “As I hear a beat, I hear a song and a melody comes out.”
On cross-examination, Mr Sutcliffe suggested: “The evidence is overwhelming that at the time of writing Shape of You your songwriting process involved collecting ideas.”
Mr Sheeran replied: ‘You say it’s overwhelming, I don’t agree with that.’
He later said, “I write a lot of songs and if I haven’t written a song within two hours, I see it as a failure.”
The star and her co-writers of the song filed a lawsuit in May 2018, asking the High Court to declare that they had not infringed the copyrights of Mr Chokri and Mr O’Donoghue .
Two months later, in July 2018, Mr. Chokri and Mr. O’Donoghue filed their own suit for “copyright infringement, damages and profit account in connection with the alleged infringement”.
Andrew Sutcliffe QC told the court on Friday: “Mr Sheeran is undeniably very talented.
“He’s a genius.
“But he’s also a magpie. He borrows ideas and throws them into songs.
“Sometimes he recognizes it. And sometimes he doesn’t.”
Mr Sheeran seemed upset by the magpie’s remark and quickly began writing a note which was passed on to his large legal team.
Mr Sutcliffe said the hitmaker had ‘won a lot of awards’ and was very famous.
He added: “They (Mr Chokri and Mr O’Donoghue) are not Shaggy, Coldplay or Rihanna.
“If they were, it would have been handled very differently.”
It’s not Shaggy, Coldplay or Rihanna. If they were, it would have been handled very differently.
Andrew Sutcliffe QC
The flaming-haired superstar, 30, had his royalties frozen for the hit single after musician Sami Chokri claimed he ripped off his work.
He’s likely missed millions since the 2018 ruling by the Performing Rights Society, which decides royalty payments.
The hearing will last three weeks.
Mr. Sheeran is due to testify Monday and Tuesday.
And this is a case where the stakes are high.
In a November 2020 ruling, Judge Francesca Kaye said the parties involved “expected that they would incur costs of approximately £3 million between themselves in this dispute”.
Mr Sheeran had previously settled a 2017 copyright infringement claim against him in the United States, relating to another of his hit songs called Photograph, the court heard.
Songwriters Thomas Leonard and Martin Harrington have sued the singer, claiming his ballad has a similar structure to their song, Amazing.
The case has been settled for more than £4million according to court documents released yesterday.
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