Ed Sheeran has denied “borrowing ideas” from other artists, only recognizing their work if they are as famous as “Shaggy, Coldplay, Rihanna or Jay-Z”.
Composers Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue are launching a copyright case against the 31 year old starclaiming that his 2017 hit Shape Of You violates “particular lines and phrases” from his 2015 song Oh Why.
The couple’s solicitor, Andrew Sutcliffe QC, told the court: “Sometimes [Sheeran] he will recognize it but sometimes he won’t,” he goes on to say that if Mr. Chokri and Mr. O’Donoghue had been well-known artists “they would have been treated very differently”.
Sheeran appeared in High Court on Friday. the first day of the trialgiving his first day of testimony on Monday.
Sheeran’s lawyer, Ian Mill QC, asked the singer if the accusations of “borrowing ideas” were true. Sitting on the witness stand dressed in a dark suit and tie, Sheeran replied: “No.”
The singer said he had previously obtained permission to use parts of songs by “many” unknown artists, giving the example of a snippet he used of part of a song by an unknown composer on the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
A prolific writer, Sheeran also said that he had already written 25 songs in a week.
Regarding the speed of his songwriting, he told the court: “Almost all my songs are written in less than two hours”, adding “if I haven’t written a song in two hours, I see it as a failure”.
The court also heard part of Sheeran’s song, Eraser, which the singer said took just half an hour to write.
Speaking of the pressure to create catchy rhythmic melodies, Sheeran said his label often pushes him to produce more hits, asking for “two greatest hits” per album.
Speaking under cross-examination, Sheeran denied any knowledge of Mr Chokri, who acted as Sami Switch, or his work.
He dismissed suggestions that he might have seen tweets from Chokri, whom he followed on Twitter, or gave “a shout out to him on stage.” Sheeran said he wasn’t yelling because he would “feel bad” if he forgot.
He was also asked about the videos uploaded by the deceased Jamal Edwards, founder of SBTV and tweets posted by Edwards referencing Sami Switch.
Sheeran told the court that Edwards, that Sheeran has called his “best friend” and is credited with launching his own career: “He championed a lot of artists” and that “it wasn’t like I watched every video he put online.”
He also denied that Edwards had shared Chokri’s 2015 song Oh Why with him at any point.
Asked by the prosecution if he was “spotting talent” and “getting hooked” on the UK music scene in 2015, Sheeran said no.
He also said he “did” social media at the end of 2015, stayed “off” social media for “all of 2016” and used a “Tesco flip phone”.
For this reason, he said it was unlikely that he would see multiple song and video releases and a tweet featuring Sami Switch in 2015 and 2016.
In one of the five witness statements, Sheeran said he had no recollection of meeting Chokri in 2011 at an SBTV launch party at a Nandos restaurant on London Bridge.
An earlier US copyright claim on Sheeran’s hit song Photograph was also discussed.
The copyright claim for the song Amazing, sung by former X Factor winner Matt Cardle in 2012, has been settled for more than $5 million.
Sheeran said the case left him “bruised” and “with a bad feeling.” He said that he complied with the advice of his lawyers.
In the present case, Mr. Chokri and Mr. O’Donoghue argue that an “Oh I” center hook in Shape Of You is “strikingly similar” to an “Oh Why” chorus in their song.
However, Sheeran told the court he was “surprised” the lawsuit went ahead, saying the Shape Of You part involved in the case was “very short” and “consists of nothing more than a minor pentatonic pattern.” song that is sung using the words ‘Ay yo’”.
In his written testimony, Sheeren said: “Both are, in my opinion, quite common. Still, if I had heard Oh Why at the time and brought it up, I would have taken steps to delete it.”
He said that he “has always tried to be completely fair in giving credit to anyone who contributes to a song I write”, and was “scrupulous in giving credit”.
Sheeran’s lawyers told the High Court that the singer and his co-writers, Steven McCutcheon and John McDaid, do not remember hearing the song Oh Why before the legal fight and deny the copying allegations.
Sheeran and his co-authors filed a lawsuit in May 2018, asking the High Court to declare that they had not infringed Chokri and O’Donoghue’s copyrights.
However, in July 2018, Chokri and O’Donoghue filed their own lawsuit alleging “copyright infringement, damages, and profit account in connection with the alleged infringement.”
Sheeran is due to continue testifying on Tuesday, and the trial is expected to last three weeks.