Sanity prevails in the Ed Sheeran “Shape of You” plagiarism trial

Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” is the most-streamed song in the history of Spotify and has made Ed and his co-writers (including John McDaid of Snow Patrol) rich. But there a cloud hung over the song: an accusation that they ripped off a 2015 song called “Oh Why” by Sam Chokri (also known as Sam Switch) and Ross O’Donoghue. At issue was–get this–a phrase that lasted one bar that repeats the words “Oh I,” which was alleged to be too similar to “Oh Why.” No, really.

However, after tons of testimony and analysis, Judge Antony Zacaroli ruled that no one “neither deliberately nor subconsciously copied” “Oh Why.” He further stated that this one-bar similarity was “only a starting point for a possible infringement.”

I quote: “The use of the first four notes of the rising minor pentatonic scale for the melody is so short, simple, commonplace and obvious in the context of the rest of the song that it is not credible that Sheeran sought out inspiration from other songs to come up with it.”

This, in my unlearned opinion, is absolutely the right decision. I agree with Ed’s post where he says:

“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, even if there is no basis for the claim, and it’s really damaging to the songwriting industry.

“There are only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music and coincidences are bound to happen if 60,000 songs are being released a day on Spotify, that is 22 million songs a year, and there are only 12 notes that are available.

“Lawsuits are not a pleasant experience and I hope with this ruling it means in the future baseless claims like this can be avoided. This really does have to end.”

Here are both songs for your comparison pleasure.

More info here and here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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