Ed Sheeran: High Court battle was about ‘standing up for what was right’

Ed Sheeran outside the Rolls Building, High Court in central London, who has said he and his Shape Of You co-writers went to court to "stand up for what we thought was right" as he spoke for the first time after winning a High Court copyright battle over the song. Photo: PA Wire/PA Images - Picture by: Kirsty O'Connor

Ed Sheeran has said he and his Shape Of You co-writers went to court to “stand up for what we thought was right” as he spoke for the first time after winning a High Court copyright battle over the song.

The singer, Snow Patrol’s John McDaid and producer Steven McCutcheon faced accusations that they ripped off 2015 track Oh Why by Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue.

But a judge on Wednesday concluded Sheeran “neither deliberately nor subconsciously” copied a phrase from Oh Why when writing his number one hit.

Following his win, Sheeran told BBC’s Newsnight the case had been about “honesty” and not money.

He said he was “happy it’s over, I’m happy we can move on, and get back to writing songs” but that the episode had made him “sad” and changed how he views songwriting.

The Suffolk singer-songwriter, 31, also revealed he films all of his songwriting sessions to protect against future claims.

Seated alongside him, multi-instrumentalist McDaid spoke of the toll the case had taken on their mental health.

He said:

“In the last year, it got really heavy and it was consuming. The cost to our mental health and creativity was really tangible.”

Sheeran and his co-authors originally launched legal proceedings in May 2018, asking the High Court to declare they had not infringed Chokri and O’Donoghue’s copyright.

Two months later, Chokri – a grime artist who performs under the name Sami Switch – and O’Donoghue issued their own claim for “copyright infringement, damages and an account of profits in relation to the alleged infringement”.

The pair alleged an “Oh I” hook in Shape Of You is “strikingly similar” to an “Oh why” refrain in their own track.

All three Shape Of You co-authors denied allegations of copying and said they did not remember hearing Oh Why before the legal fight.

In a preview of the full interview, due to air on Newsnight on April 8, Sheeran referenced a previous claim he said had been made about his song Photograph in the US in 2017 and explained that he now films all of his songwriting sessions.

The singer said he “personally” regretted settling over Photograph, saying he did not play the song for a long time, explaining:

“I just stopped playing it. I felt weird about it, it kind of made me feel dirty.”

Sheeran added:

“Now I just film everything, everything is on film. We’ve had claims come through on the songs and we go, well here’s the footage and you watch. You’ll see there’s nothing there.”

Speaking about his songwriting has changed, he added:

“There’s the George Harrison point where he said he’s scared to touch the piano because he might be touching someone else’s note. There is definitely a feeling of that in the studio.

“I personally think the best feeling in the world is the euphoria around the first idea of writing a great song.

“That feeling has now turned into ‘Oh wait, let’s stand back for a minute’. You find yourself in the moment, second-guessing yourself.”

During the 11-day trial last month at the Rolls Building in London, Sheeran denied he “borrows” ideas from unknown songwriters without acknowledgement and insisted he “always tried to be completely fair” in crediting people who contribute to his albums.

Chokri told the trial he felt “robbed” by Sheeran and was “shocked” when he first heard Shape Of You on the radio.

The Oh Why co-writers’ lawyer, Andrew Sutcliffe QC, alleged Sheeran is an artist who “alters” words and music belonging to others to “pass as original”.

Ian Mill QC, for Sheeran, McDaid and McCutcheon, said the allegations against them were “impossible to hold”, with the evidence pointing to Shape Of You being an “independent creation”.

Sheeran was present throughout the trial and frequently burst into song and hummed musical scales and melodies when he took to the witness stand.

Watch the full interview on Newsnight at 10.30pm on Friday April 8 on BBC Two.


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