British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran sang his 2017 hit song “Shape of You” in a copyright trial over the song. Sheeran has denied claims of infringement and said melodies can sound similar without being copied.
Sheeran steps into a legal battle with grime artist Sami Chokri, stage name Sami Switch, and music producer Ross O’Donoghue, who claim that “Shape of You” infringes copyright because it took “particular lines and phrases” from their 2015 song “Oh Why.”
Chokri and O’Donoghue argue that the “Oh I” hook in “Shape of You” is “strikingly similar” to the “Oh Why” hook in their song. Sheeran sang the “Oh I” hook and lines from songs like Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” in the same key to show how melodies can sound alike. However, Chokri and O’Donoghue said that it was “extremely likely” that the artist had heard their track, though Sheeran and his co-writers refute this claim.
“They’re both pentatonic scales and they both use vowels,” Sheeran repeatedly told the High Court in London when asked about the similarities of “Oh Why” and “Oh I” hooks. Chokri and O’Donoghue’s lawyer Andrew Sutcliffe extensively asked about the writing of the song in October 2016 with co-writer Steven McCutcheon and John McDaid, and the changes made as it was developed.
The court played Sheeran’s recordings singing the hooks in different pitches which is called stacking. “It sounds like you were singing ‘Oh My’,” Sutcliffe said to Sheeran, while the singer responded “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.” – Ed Sheeran
The legal proceedings between both parties have been in court since 2018. Sheeran, McCutcheon, and McDaid had asked the High Court to declare that they had not infringed Chokri and O’Donoghue’s copyright for “Oh Why.” But the latter later filed a counterclaim alleging infringement. “You’re an excessive music squirrel. You consume music voraciously,” Sutcliffe says to Sheeran. “I am a music fan, I like music, I listen to music,” Sheeran replied. The singer says he was not aware of Switch at the time he was accused of copying parts of “Oh Why,” and also claimed he had never heard the song before the court case.
“Shape of You” is a track from Sheeran’s third studio album ÷, which was released in 2017. The song has received several awards and has also topped charts around the world upon its release. It’s a hit song awarded with Most Streamed Song, International Hit of the Year and Video of the Year in 2017.
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