On April 6, British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran won his copyright case at the High Court in London after a judge ruled that his hit song “Shape of You” had no noted the musical phrases of another piece.
Judge Antony Zacaroli said Sheeran had “neither deliberately nor unknowingly” copied a line from the British grime track, “Oh Why”, when writing the worldwide hit.
“Shape of You”, released in 2017, remains the most streamed song on Spotify, with over three billion streams.
It won Sheeran, 31, a Grammy for Best Pop Solo Performance. He, along with several others, has writing credit on the track.
But two other songwriters, Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue, alleged the song had musical similarities to their own song titled “Oh Why”, performed under Chokri’s stage name Sami Switch.
Judge Zacaroli ruled that “there are obvious similarities” between the hooks of the two songs, but that there were also “significant differences”.
While both hooks are inspired by the minor pentatonic scale, “there are countless songs in the pop, rock, folk and blues genres where the melody is taken exclusively” from the same scale, he said.
Zacaroli also said that the two phrases “play very different roles in their respective songs”.
The suitors hook “is the central part of the song” whereas in Sheeran’s hit it’s “something catchy to fill the bar before every repeated line ‘I’m in love with your body’.”
Sheeran appeared in court during the 11-day trial, bursting into song and humming musical scales and melodies as he was questioned about how the song was written.
The singer denied “borrowing” ideas from unknown songwriters and told the court he “always tried to be completely fair” in crediting contributors.