Monday, April 8

Songwriter felt belittled in Ed Sheeran copyright fight, court hears | Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran “belittled” a songwriter who accused him of ripping off his song in the 2017 hit Shape of You, the high court has heard.

Sami Chokri said he was hurt by the tone of Sheeran’s lawyers’ emails after he noticed similarities between his song Oh Why and Sheeran’s Shape of You.

“I feel like I’ve been robbed by someone I respect, or respected,” he told the court. “This is years of a cloud over my head. All I heard and read was emails belittling me and my questions … All I wanted to do was ask for an explanation. If I’d had one, we wouldn’t have had to go through with this rubbish.”

The grime artist called the trial “the most horrible weeks of my life.”

Chokri, who performs under the name Sami Switch, claims Shape of You infringes “particular lines and phrases” of his track, which was released in 2015.

He and his co-writer Ross O’Donoghue argue that a central “Oh I” hook in Sheeran’s song is “strikingly similar” to an “Oh why” refrain in their own composition.

Sheeran and his co-authors, the producer Steven McCutcheon and Snow Patrol’s John McDaid, deny allegations of copying and say they do not remember hearing Oh Why before the legal fight.

In his written evidence, Chokri said he was shocked when he first heard Shape of You on the radio in 2017. “I was a passenger in my girlfriend’s car and Shape of You came on the radio,” he wrote. “She and I were both shocked to hear the similarities… She pulled over the car and we said this is what everyone is talking about.”

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He later posted on Facebook: “Anyone else think Ed Sheeran’s new song Shape of You chorus sounds familiar lol?”

“I had lots of responses,” he said, including one from Sheeran’s friend Jamal Edwards, the late SBTV founder, who posted the “shifty eyes” emoji (which was later deleted). “I thought maybe he had played a part in showing [my song] to Ed,” Chokri said.

Before his death last month, Edwards gave a written statement denying playing Oh Why to Sheeran. “Even if I was sent a copy, I did not share it with Ed,” he wrote.

Chokri told the court that while he respected what Edwards had said, “I also believe that Jamal would share music with Ed Sheeran.”

He said he believed Sheeran had heard Oh Why “through the many points of access that me and my team have shared” and “the closeness in our circles musically”.

Last week Sheeran told the court that the contested element of his song was “entirely commonplace”. He added: “Even so, if I had heard Oh Why at the time and had referenced it, I would have taken steps to clear it.

“I have been as scrupulous as I possibly can and have even given credits to people who I believe may have been no more than a mere influence for a songwriting element. This is because I want to treat other songwriters fairly.”

But Chokri told the court on Monday he did not accept Sheeran’s explanation. “I’m not sure if he lied or doesn’t remember,” he said.

The songwriter, from Reading, said Oh Why was written in June 2014 during “a difficult period of time”. The court heard how he registered the song with PRS for Music – the industry body that collects and distributes royalties – only in 2017.

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Ian Mill QC, representing the Shape of You co-writers, suggested that “the reason you registered then was because you had in mind the claim about copyright infringement”.

The court has previously heard that PRS for Music has suspended certain payments to Sheeran and his co-writers for the performances or broadcasts of Shape of You.

Chokri said he knew about the suspension but “didn’t know that signing up to PRS was for that purpose”.

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.

The pair issued a counter-claim for copyright infringement, claiming that Shape of You infringed “particular lines and phrases” of their song.

The trial before Mr Justice Zacaroli continues.

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