Ed Sheeran came out victorious in his years-long legal fight over “Shape of You.”
In 2018, grime artist Sami Switch sued the British singer-songwriter for allegedly plagiarizing his 2015 song “Oh Why.” The plaintiff claimed Sheeran and “Shape of You” co-writers—producer Steve Mac and Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid—had stolen “Oh Why’s” melody for Sheeran’s 2017 chart-topper. Switch and “Oh Why” co-writer Ross O’Donoghue specifically pointed to the “Oh I” phrase in “Shape of You,” claiming it was very similar to portions of their song.
The defendants denied the allegations and subsequently asked a UK court to declare they had not infringed on the copyright.
On Wednesday, London High Court Judge Antony Zacaroli rule Sheeran “neither deliberately nor subconsciously” copied “Oh Why” when he wrote “Shape of You” in 2016. According to the BBC, Zacaroli told the parties there were clear similarities between the songs, but “such similarities are only a starting point for a possible [copyright] infringement.” He went on to say there were “differences between the relevant parts” of the songs.
Shortly after the judge announced the verdict, Sheeran took to social media to address case.
“While we’re obviously happy with the result, I feel like claims like this are way 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,” he said in a video message. “Even if there’s no base for the claim. It’s really damaging to the songwriting industry. There’s only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music. Coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 songs are being released every day on Spotify.”
He continued: “I don’t want to take anything away from the pain and hurt suffered by both sides of this case, but I just want to say that I’m not an entity. I’m not a corporation. I’m a human being. I’m a father. I’m a husband. I’m a son. Lawsuits are not a pleasant experience and I hope with this ruling it means in the future baseless claims like this can be avoided.”
“Shape of You” was the second single off Sheeran’s third studio album, ÷ (Divide). The track debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and became the UK’s highest-selling track in 2017.