'This is not the end': Sami Chokri breaks silence over Sheeran High Court verdict

6 April 2022, 09:55 | Updated: 6 April 2022, 18:15

Sami Chokri (right) lost his high court battle against Ed Sheeran
Sami Chokri (right) lost his high court battle against Ed Sheeran. Picture: Getty

By Megan Hinton

Grime artist Sami Chokri has broken his silence after a judge rejected his claim singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran had copied part of his song.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

In an Instagram post, Chokri wrote: "Through despair I found an instant highway to gratitude.

"I am rich, of love, friends and family.

"This is the beginning not the end."

Read more: Meghan Markle tries to trademark 'archetypes' ahead of Spotify podcast launch

Chokri accused Sheeran of copying part of his 2015 song Oh Why for his number one hit Shape Of You.

But Ed Sheeran won the High Court battle, which, according to one of his lawyers Simon Goodbudy, was because the songs were not deemed similar enough and because Chokri's track was too obscure to assume that Sheeran had heard it.

"The judge found that Mr Sheeran had never heard the track in question and in consequence couldn't have copied it, but moreover he talked about the particular phrase and found, based on the evidence before the court, that it had been independently created," Mr Goodbudy told LBC News.

"The judge did say there were obvious similarities between the two phrases but there were also significant differences as well, which must be taken into account when you're assessing the likelihood of copying.

"So the court heard evidence from musicologists but was also presented with all of the sound recording files and that showed how not only the use of the same scale was present within Shape Of You in other elements of it, but also in other tracks written by Ed Sheeran, and also other tracks written by a whole host of people operating in blues, pop and rock genres.

"So it's not an uncommon phrase, it's a rising scale in both cases and to that extent the similarities were deemed commonplace as well."

Sheeran earlier called for an end to the "really damaging" copyright claim culture ripping through the music industry, hitting out at "baseless claims" brought against singer-songwriters.

He added that there were "only so many quotes and so many chords used in pop music" and "coincidences are bound to happen".

Speaking after his victory, Sheeran said he was "obviously happy with the result" but added: "I'm not an entity, I'm not a corporation, I'm a human being, I'm a father, I'm a husband, I'm a son."

In Wednesday's ruling, Mr Justice Zacaroli concluded that Sheeran "neither deliberately nor subconsciously" copied a phrase from Oh Why when writing Shape of You.

The judge said: "Listening to the sounds as a whole ... the two phrases play very different roles in their respective songs.

"The OW Hook (in Oh Why) is the central part of the song and reflects the song's slow, brooding and questioning mood.

"Without diminishing its importance, the OI Phrase (in Shape of You) plays a very different role - something catchy to fill the bar before each repeated phrase 'I'm in love with your body'.

"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 Mr Sheeran sought out inspiration from other songs to come up with it.

"As to the combination of elements upon which the defendants rely, even if Mr Sheeran had gone looking for inspiration, then Oh Why is far from an obvious source, given the stark contrast between the dark mood created by the OW Hook in Oh Why and the upbeat, dance feel that Mr Sheeran was looking to create with Shape."

Read more: Pictured: British finance lawyer who was killed alongside son, 9, in Australian landslide

Singer Ed Sheeran and co-writers, Snow Patrol's John McDaid and producer Steven McCutcheon, released a joint statement following a High Court win over a copyright battle over the hit song.

They said: "There was a lot of talk throughout this case about cost. But there is more than just a financial cost.

"There is a cost on creativity. When we are tangled up in lawsuits, we are not making music or playing shows.

"There is a cost on our mental health. The stress this causes on all sides is immense. It affects so many aspects of our everyday lives and the lives of our families and friends.

"We are not corporations. We are not entities. We are human beings. We are songwriters. We do not want to diminish the hurt and pain anyone has suffered through this, and at the same time we feel it is important to acknowledge that we too have had our own hurts and life struggles throughout the course of this process.

"There is an impact on both us and the wider circle of songwriters everywhere. Our hope in having gone through all of this is that it shows that there is a need for a safe space for all songwriters to be creative, and free to express their hearts.

"That is why we all got into this in the first place. Everyone should be able to freely express themselves in music, in art and do so fearlessly.

"At the same time, we believe that there should be due process for legitimate and warranted copyright protection. However, that is not the same as having a culture where unwarranted claims are easily brought. This is not constructive or conducive to a culture of creativity."

Read more: Prince Charles begged Jimmy Savile for help with Royal PR, secret letters reveal

In a separate statement Sheeran called for the end of "baseless claims" saying there is now a "culture where a claim is made with the idea that a settlement will be cheaper than taking it to court".

In a video shared on Instagram, Sheeran said: "Hey guys, me, Johnny and Steve have made a joint statement that will be press-released on the outcome of this case but I wanted to make a small video to talk about it a bit because I've not really been able to say anything while it's been going on.

"While we are happy with the result, I feel like 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.

"I don't want to take anything away from the pain and hurt suffered from both sides of this case but I just want to say I'm not an entity, I'm not a corporation, I'm a human being, I'm a father, I'm a husband, I'm a son.

"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.

"Me, Johnny and Steve are very grateful for all the support sent to us by fellow songwriters over the last few weeks. Hopefully we can all get back to writing songs rather than having to prove we can write them."

Read more: 'Totally bonkers' council bans daffodils over concerns children will eat them

During an 11-day trial in London last month, Sheeran denied he "borrows" ideas from unknown songwriters without acknowledgement and insisted he "always tried to be completely fair" in crediting people who contribute to his albums.

The singer told the court he was trying to "clear my name" and denied using litigation to "intimidate" Chokri and Mr O'Donoghue into abandoning the copyright dispute.

During previous hearings Ian Mill QC, who represented the three men, said the legal battle had been "deeply traumatising", arguing the case should never have reached trial.

But the Oh Why co-writers' lawyer, Andrew Sutcliffe QC, labelled Sheeran a "magpie", claiming he "habitually copies" other artists and that it is "extremely likely" he had previously heard 'Oh Why'.

Chokri told the trial he felt "robbed" by the music star and was left "shocked" when he first heard Shape Of You on the radio.

Musicology experts gave contrasting views at the trial over whether Shape Of You has "significant similarities" or is "distinctively different" from Oh Why.

Shape Of You was a worldwide hit, becoming the best-selling song of 2017 in the UK and the most streamed track in Spotify's history.