Bad Habits? Ed Sheeran denies stealing from other artists as he gives testimony in court

London, UK - Ed Sheeran denied before a London court on Monday that he "borrows" ideas from unknown songwriters without acknowledgement, in a case regarding the copyright of his hit song Shape Of You.

Ed Sheeran is being sued for copyright infringement b y two British songwriters.
Ed Sheeran is being sued for copyright infringement b y two British songwriters.  © IMAGO / i Images

The singer began giving live evidence on Monday as part of his legal battle with two songwriters, Sami Chokri and Ross O'Donoghue, who allege Sheeran's 2017 song rips off parts of their track Oh Why – something Sheeran denies.

On Friday, at the start of what is expected to be a three-week trial, Andrew Sutcliffe QC, the attorney for Chokri and O'Donoghue, claimed Sheeran "borrows ideas and throws them into his songs, sometimes he will acknowledge it but sometimes he won't."

He also alleged that Sheeran's acknowledgement depended on how famous the other artist was, adding that Chokri and O'Donoghue "are not Shaggy, Coldplay, Rihanna, or Jay-Z, if they were they would have been treated in a very different way."

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At the start of his evidence on Monday, Sheeran's attorney asked: "Do you accept that you behave or have behaved in that way?"

The star said "no," before adding: "The examples he has been using are obviously famous artists, two of them are people I've made songs with."

He continued that "if Mr Sutcliffe would have done his research," he would have known there were "lots" of unknown artists he had cleared parts of songs with.

Sheeran grilled over past contact with plaintiffs

Sheeran attended court in London on Monday.
Sheeran attended court in London on Monday.  © IMAGO / i Images

Sheeran appeared in the witness box in a dark suit with a dark tie. He gave several examples of when he had cleared aspects of songs with unknown artists, including sampling a part of a song from the TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer from an "unknown composer."

"All those examples are not famous artists that we've cleared songs with and that's what I have to say on that," he said.

Sheeran later denied that he was aware of Chokri, a grime artist who performs under the name Sami Switch, earlier in his career.

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During the cross-examination, Sutcliffe said Sheeran must have been aware of Chokri because they appeared on YouTube channel SBTV at around the same time and shared friends. The attorney also insisted Chokri had messaged Sheeran on Twitter and even got a shoutout on stage from the star during a performance.

"This is all stuff you're saying, this isn't stuff that's true," Sheeran said.

Sutcliffe asked: "You're saying you definitely weren't aware of him, rather than you've forgot that you're aware of him?"

"Yes," Sheeran said.

He earlier told the court that it was "very unlikely" he was asked to shout Sami Switch's name at a performance, explaining that he does not do "shoutouts on stage" as he would "feel bad" if he forgets.

A disputed hook

Sheeran on stage during the 2022 Brit Awards.
Sheeran on stage during the 2022 Brit Awards.  © IMAGO / PA Images

Chokri and O'Donoghue allege that "Shape Of You" infringes "particular lines and phrases" of their song, released in 2015.

They argue that a central "Oh I" hook in Shape Of You is "strikingly similar" to an Oh Why refrain in their own composition.

But Sheeran's lawyers have told the High Court that the singer and his co-writers, Steven McCutcheon and John McDaid, have no recollection of having heard Oh Why before the legal fight and deny the allegations of copying.

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

In July 2018, Chokri and O'Donoghue issued their own claim for "copyright infringement, damages, and an account of profits in relation to the alleged infringement."

The trial continues.

Cover photo: IMAGO / i Images

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