The Grammy Award-winning musician was brought to court in March over allegations that he and his co-writers – Johnny McDaid and Steve Mac – had plagiarised the 2015 track Oh Why by Sami Chokri and his co-writer Ross O’Donoghue.
The grime artist claimed that the “Oh I” hook in Shape of You was “strikingly similar” to the “Oh why” phrase in his own song.
He also stated that the pair shared common associates and it was therefore likely that Sheeran had heard his song before writing his bestselling single.
In a ruling delivered this morning, the judge declared that Sheeran had “neither deliberately nor subconsciously copied” Chokri’s song.
The judge also stated that there was “compelling evidence” to suggest that Sheeran’s song took inspiration from sources “other than Oh Why” adding: “I find, as a matter of fact, that he had not heard it.”
Chokri’s lawyer had branded Sheeran a “magpie” who “habitually copies” the work of other artists. He claimed that the singer’s “obsessive” consumption of music, as well as their shared associations, made it “extremely likely” that Sheeran had listened to Oh Why before writing Shape of You.
Musicology experts provided differing assessments of the tracks, with one stating that it was “objectively unlikely” that similarities between the songs were a “result of copying”, while a second expert said similarities were so “numerous and striking that the possibility of independent creation is… highly improbable.”
While Sheeran acknowledged similarities with other tracks such as TLC’s No Scrubs – whose writers he has credited – he rejected the notion that he had heard or copied Chokri’s single.
Calling the case “deeply traumatising”, Sheeran’s lawyer said the case against him and his co-writers should never have come to trial.