Ed Sheeran and his “Shape Of You” co-writers received nearly $1.5 million in legal fees from two songwriters who accused them of copyright infringement.
Snow Patrol’s Sheeran, Steve McCutcheon and Johnny McDaid were accused by Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue in 2019 of copying the chorus from their 2015 song “Oh Why”.
But, after an 11-day trial in London, a judge ruled in April that the trio “neither deliberately nor unknowingly” copied the tune. Judge Zacaroli said there were “similarities” between the songs but they “are only the starting point for possible infringement” of copyright.
In a statement released after the verdict, Sheeran, McDaid and McCutcheon lamented the cost of their defense against the lawsuit.
“There is more than just a financial cost. There is a cost on creativity. When we’re entangled in lawsuits, we don’t make music or play shows,” it read. “There is a cost to our mental health. The stress this causes on all sides is immense. It affects many aspects of our daily lives and the lives of our families and friends. We are not corporations. We are not entities. We are human beings. We are songwriters.
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Millions of dollars in royalties were withheld while the case was in court. (The writers of TLC’s 1999 hit “No Scrubs” received credits on “Shape of You” after its release due to similarities.)
The court costs judgment, which will be finalized at an upcoming hearing, is likely to send chills down the spine for songwriters considering making claims against famous people — something Sheeran welcomes. “I feel like claims like this are all too common now and have become a culture where a claim is made with the idea that a settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court, even if ‘there is no basis for the claim,’ he said in a video message in April. “It’s really detrimental to the songwriting industry. There are only a limited number of notes and very few chords used in pop music. The coincidence is inevitable.
“This really needs to stop.”
Sheeran was previously sued for his 2014 hit “Thinking Out Loud” over alleged similarities to Marvin Gaye’s 1973 song “Let’s Get It On.” In 2018, Sheeran settled a copyright infringement lawsuit from songwriters who alleged his 2014 hit “Photograph” was a “note-for-note copy” of their 2009 song “Amazing.”
That same year, two songwriters filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Sheeran, claiming that the tune to “The Rest Of Our Life” – which Sheeran wrote for country stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill – is taken from their song “When I Found You”. The matter was subsequently settled.