LONDON – Ed Sheeran and his songwriting partners have been awarded more than £900,000 ($1.1 million) in legal costs following their victory in a high-profile copyright case over his 2017 global hit “Shape of You.”
In April, Judge Antony Zacaroli ruled that Sheeran and his “Shape of You” co-writers, Steven McCutcheon and Johnny McDaid, did not “deliberately nor subconsciously” infringe a 2015 song called “Oh Why” by a fellow U.K. artist named Sami Chokri, who performs as Sami Switch.
The ruling came nearly four years after Chokri and his producer Ross O’Donoghue first accused Sheeran and his collaborators of copying a key part of their song and incorporating it into “Shape of You,” which spent 12 weeks atop the Hot 100.
Chokri and O’Donoghue alleged that the “Oh I” hook in “Shape of You” was “strikingly similar” to the “Oh Why” refrain from their own composition. The trio denied the claims and launched legal proceedings in May 2018, asking the UK’s High Court to declare they had not infringed any copyright.
The case culminated in an 11-day trial in London in March and April that saw Sheeran repeatedly take the stand, where he faced accusations that he was a “magpie” who habitually borrows ideas from other songwriters.
Following the April 6 High Court ruling, lawyers acting on behalf of Chokri and O’Donoghue argued that the claimants (Sheeran, McCutcheon, McDaid) should be deprived of all their costs due to their “conduct… both before and during the proceedings.”
Specifically, Chokri and O’Donoghue’s lawyers allege that Sheeran’s legal team failed to engage in pre-action correspondence and failed to disclose voice notes and project files relating to how “Shape of You” was written that would ultimately prove key to the case. The defendants also said that Sheeran’s team had “demonstrated ‘awkwardness and opacity’ so as to strengthen [their] conviction that infringement had occurred.”
The judge did not accept those accusations and ruled that Sheeran and his co-writers were entitled to receive an “interim payment” of £916,200, to be paid by Chokri and O’Donoghue. A detailed assessment of the costs due will now be carried out by another senior judge, who could decide to disallow some part of the claimants’ costs and reduce the total payment due.