Ed Sheeran vs. Sam Chokri: What is the ‘Shape of You’ copyright lawsuit?


The worldwide hit of British pop star Ed Sheeran, 31 shape of you – The most streamed play of 2017 is played a lot at the High Court in London these days. That’s because grime artist Sam Chokri and producer Ross O’Donoghue accused Sheeran and two of his co-writers Johnny McDaid and Steve Mac of ripping off the main hook of their 2015 song. Oh why for the unmistakably catchy track ‘Oh I’ shape of you – the song that remains the most popular of all time on Spotify, in addition to being the most downloaded since 2017.

Chokri, who performs under the name Sami Switch, claims shape of you infringes “particular lines and phrases” of its track and is “strikingly similar”.

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In this copyright infringement battle that also involves forensic musicologists, Sheeran, McDaid and Steve Mac have denied the claim. When questioned in court by Chokri’s attorney, Andrew Sutcliffe, Sheeran said he was unaware of Chokri’s existence and had never heard the song before the trial. He spoke of his “long and very successful career writing original songs”, adding that he wouldn’t have had it if he had plagiarized.

Who is Sam Chokri and what is his connection to Ed Sheeran?

Sam Chokri is an aspiring grime artist from Caversham in Reading. He and Sheeran appeared together on UK online music platform SBTV. According to Sutcliffe, Sheeran also shouted Switch’s name at the Reading Festival in 2011 after his friend Jamal Edwards, the late SBTV founder, asked him to.

In 2015, when Oh why – a song that deals with issues of war and peace, hunger and death – was being promoted, Artists and Company (A&C), which worked with Chokri, was trying to get Sheeran to hear the song through a similar circle of people . They wanted Sheeran to recognize that Chokri had talent. A&C’s senior management was quite upset in 2017 when shape of you came out without any credit for Chokri. Sheeran and his co-writers claim to have never heard the song. In fact, Sheeran called the hook “mundane.”

Artist Sami Chokri waves as he arrives at the Rolls Building, High Court, in central London on Tuesday, March 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Is there a similarity between the two songs?

In the simplest terms possible, crochet is undoubtedly similar. The melodic formation and rhythmic rattling sound similar, as does the melodic progression, which forensic musicologists on Chokri’s side have asserted. But Sheeran and some musicologists also called the similar-sounding hook “quite banal” because the melodic structure was extremely common.

shape of you is set on the pentatonic scale – which is perhaps the most commonly used scale in the history of music worldwide, including India, which is probably why it was easy for Indian classical musicians to sing the song with Indian melodic syllables. A few weeks after the song was released, a Minneapolis-based software engineer Vinod Krishnan could be seen singing bol taans and mridangam bols with singer Aditya Rao. American composer, digital artist and technology enthusiast, Mahesh Raghvan, included interludes in the piece using an iPad as a continuous touch and created musical slides, which are so relevant to Carnatic classical music.

Chokri’s lawyers also played snippets of both songs to prove their point, in addition to showing a snippet from the song’s recording in which Sheeran talks about changing “Oh I” because “it’s too close. bone”. In his response, Sheeran said he was talking about No diggity – a song by an American R&B group.

Is Sheeran leading the counterfeit battle for the first time?

No, he is not. So far, Sheeran has been embroiled in multiple infringement complaints, the most prominent of which being the one with the song’s creators. No scrubs by American girl group TLC. The claim at the time was that the melodic outline sounded similar, which in the case of No scrubs may even be missed by ears less sensitive to pop music. Sheeran and his co-writers eventually settled the issue by giving the musicians a 15% share of the royalties.

Another claim Sheeran settled out of court involved his song Strip that which was sung by One Direction singer Liam Payne. Sheeran co-wrote the song with Mac – who also co-wrote shape of you and Payne. Right after the song’s release, social media was abuzz with the similarities to Jamaican-American reggae star Shaggy’s 2000 hit, It was not me. Publishers now pay a 25% royalty to authors and publishers of It was not me.

Another case is that of the song Photographwho copied “note for note” a song called Surprising by X Factor contestant Matt Cardle. The songwriters claimed that half of the song was completely plagiarized. A $20 million lawsuit was settled out of court. Now the creators of Surprising get a 35% share of Sheeran’s royalty.

Sheeran was also involved in another lawsuit for plagiarizing Marvin Gaye’s number let’s go for his song Thinking out loud.

How did the case affect Sheeran?

Sheeran receives around £20million in royalties for shape of you. Since the case, they remain suspended.

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