A novel tune – Ed Sheeran v Sami Chokri – copyright infringement claim falls on deaf ears

6th April 2022

In what has been a riveting case, involving Ed Sheeran and his chart topping composition - 'Shape of You..' from 2017, the UK High Court has today (6 April) ruled in favour with Sheeran and against the grime artist, Sami Chokri.

Chokri alleged that the  ‘Oh I..’ hook from Sheeran’s song was strikingly similar to ‘Oh Why..’ from Chokri’s song and that Sheeran deliberately copied the notes having heard it prior to conceiving the song and lyrics of ‘Shape of You’.

Rather unusually Sheeran took the step of issuing proceedings against Chokri, seeking a declaration that his song did not infringe Chokri’s copyright. Chokri then counterclaimed against Sheeran alleging copyright infringement.

The judgment considered the alleged similarities between the two works at length, finding that the similarities represented “a common building block in music” and that “the same or similar elements [can be found] in other parts of Shape and in other Ed Sheeran songs”.

Furthermore, the evidence of Sheeran allegedly having heard ‘Oh why’ “provides no more than a speculative foundation” and thus the Judge concluded that Sheeran had not heard Chokri’s work but, rather, Sheeran had composed ‘Shape of You’ through his own writing process.

The sheer size of the music industry, laid bare in the judgment (with royalties of over £5m a year for ‘Shape of You’), means that this will certainly not be the last such infringement claim we see. Indeed, over the last few years we have seen an increasing number of such claims involving stars such as Ed Sheeran, Chris Brown, Kilo Ali aka Andrell Rodgers, Led Zeppelin and many more.

This is far from a surprise given that there are over 22 million songs penned each year, based on only 12 notes. Sheeran’s exasperation was evident from his evidence, he is known for paying royalties to, and providing credit to, writers/musicians who he takes ‘inspiration’ from but even then there will always be other similar works out there, perhaps taking ‘inspiration’ from the very same artists.

Chokri will no doubt be left wondering ‘Oh why’ he alleged infringement against Sheeran in the first place, but if you think ‘Oh I’ have a similar issue then please contact Blake Morgan’s specialist IP team to discuss it further.

Read the full judgment here.

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