British singer Ed Sheeran has denied borrowing ideas from other artists without attribution as he took to the stand on Monday in a copyright trial regarding his 2017 chart-topping hit Shape of You.
The award-winning singer is in a legal battle with grime artist Sami Chokri, who performs as Sami Switch, and music producer Ross O’Donoghue, who argue Shape of You infringes “particular lines and phrases” from their 2015 song Oh Why. Questioned by their lawyer Andrew Sutcliffe on Monday, Sheeran, 31, said he had not been aware of Switch at the time he is accused of ripping off parts of Oh Why.
Sutcliffe said Sheeran must have known of the grime artist, who he said had tweeted him directly and they had both appeared on SBTV, the British online music platform which helped launch Sheeran’s career. The lawyer said Sheeran shouted out Switch’s name at Reading Festival in 2011 after being asked to by the late founder of SBTV, Jamal Edwards.
“This isn’t stuff that’s true,” Sheeran told the High Court in London on the second day of the trial which began on Friday. Chokri and O’Donoghue claim the Oh I hook in Shape of You is “strikingly similar” to the Oh Why hook in their song and that it was “extremely likely” Sheeran had previously heard their track.
Sheeran and his co-writers have denied this, with their lawyers telling the court that the trio has no recollection of having previously heard “Oh Why.”
Sutcliffe, who at Friday’s opening called Sheeran “a magpie,” questioned the chart-topper intensively over his songwriting style and whether it was spontaneous or the result of development over time, with the influence of other artists.
He said it was “simply not true” that Sheeran made songs up as he went along, adding there was overwhelming evidence at the time of writing “Shape of You” that Sheeran was collecting ideas before writing songs. “I don’t agree with that,” Sheeran, who gave his answers clearly and confidently, said.
Legal proceedings between the two parties date back from 2018 when Sheeran and co-writers Steven McCutcheon and John McDaid asked the High Court to declare they had not infringed Chokri and O’Donoghue’s copyright for Oh Why.
The latter later filed a counterclaim alleging infringement. Released from Sheeran’s third studio album ÷, Shape of You stormed charts around the world upon its release in January 2017, becoming the best performing song in the US that year.