Ed Sheeran is a “magpie” who allegedly borrows ideas from other artists to use in his songs, the Supreme Court has heard.
The singer, 31, personally attended the copyright lawsuit to hear two songwriters claim his 2017 hit “Shape Of You” ripped off parts of their track “Oh Why.”
Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue claim the song violates “certain lines and phrases” of their composition.
Sheeran and his co-writers of the song, Steven McCutcheon and John McDaid, started court proceedings in May 2018, asking the High Court to declare that they had not infringed on Chokri and O’Donoghue’s copyright.
Two months later, in July 2018, Chokri and O’Donoghue filed their own lawsuit alleging “copyright infringement, damages and profit settlement related to the alleged infringement.”
The trial over the copyright dispute, which is expected to last three weeks, began on Friday in the Rolls Building in central London.
Mr Sheeran – who is worth an estimated €250 million – attended the hearing in person wearing a dark suit and tie.
Andrew Sutcliffe QC, for Mr Chokri and Mr O’Donoghue, said the key question in the case is ‘how does Ed Sheeran write his music?’ and whether he ‘invents things while he goes along’ in songwriting sessions.
The attorney said, “Or is the truth of the matter is that his songwriting process is more nuanced and less spontaneous…involves collecting and developing ideas over time that relate to and interpolate with other artists.” Such is the case of the defendants.
“Mr. Sheeran is undoubtedly very talented, he is a genius. But he’s also a magpie.
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“He borrows ideas and throws them into his songs, sometimes he’ll appreciate it, sometimes he won’t.”
Mr Sutcliffe said it “depends on who you are and whether he thinks he can get away with it”.
The Shape Of You and Oh Why hooks were played in the courtroom.
Mr Sheeran did not respond when part of Oh Why was played or later part of his song was heard over the court speakers.
Mr Sutcliffe added: “The resemblance between the two hooks is striking and immediately apparent.
“They sound almost identical, they are such that an ordinary, sensible, experienced listener might think that maybe one came from the other.
“Of course, that alone does not prove that there has been copying, but it is an important starting point.”
Short clips of early versions of Shape Of You were later played in court and a clip of Mr Sheeran’s performance at Glastonbury in 2017 was shown.
Mr Sheeran’s lawyers previously told the court the singer and his co-writers had no recollection of hearing the song Oh Why before the lawsuit and “vehemently” denied the allegations of copying.
Ian Mill QC, representing Sheeran and his two co-writers, debated whether the case would cover if the three songwriters allegedly unknowingly or knowingly copied the hook of the song Oh Why.
“How can more than one person copy something unconsciously? It’s totally unimaginable,” said Mr Mill.
He included a case of “deliberate copying” against Sheeran, and his co-authors would demand that “all three knew at the time of writing that they were copying Oh Why.”
The High Court also heard that PRS for Music – the industry body that collects and distributes royalties – had suspended payment to Sheeran and his co-writers for performing or broadcasting Shape Of You.
The song was a worldwide hit, becoming the best-selling song of 2017 in the UK and the most-streamed song in Spotify history.
Mr Sutcliffe later acknowledged that Shape Of You’s creators were “very famous and very successful”.
He added, “They’ve had a lot of hits, they’ve set a lot of records and they’ve won a lot of awards.”
But the lawyer said the case isn’t about “how famous the plaintiffs are, it boils down to the defendants not being”.
He added, “They’re not Shaggy, Coldplay, Rihanna or Jay-Z, if they were they would have been treated very differently.”
He said Chokri and O’Donoghue are “not emerging artists.”
The attorney continued, “They are songwriters and very talented who deserve the same respect as any other artist and credit where credit is due.”
The trial before Mr Justice Zacaroli is continuing with the verdict likely to be postponed to a later date.
© evening standard
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/music/music-news/ed-sheeran-a-magpie-who-borrows-ideas-for-his-music-high-court-copyright-trial-hears-41412912.html Ed Sheeran is “a magpie who borrows ideas for his music,” according to the High Court copyright case