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Songwriter calls idea of plagiarism ‘abhorrent’ as Ed Sheeran High Court case continues

Singer-songwriter John McDaid has called the idea of plagiarising other people’s work as “abhorrent” as the High Court case over the copyright of a song he wrote with Ed Sheeran continues.

The co-authors of Shape Of You – Mr McDaid, Mr Sheeran and producer Steven McCutcheon – are all involved in a legal row with two songwriters, Sami Chokri and Ross O’Donoghue, who claim it rips off parts of their 2015 track Oh Why.

However, they have denied this.

British songwriter Sami Chokri arrives at the Rolls Building for a copyright trial over the Ed Sheeran song 'Shape of You', in London, Britain, March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
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Sami Chokri has been present for proceedings in London this week

Mr McDaid, who is a band member of Snow Patrol and also godfather to Mr Sheeran’s daughter, gave written evidence at a trial in central London.

He recalled the creation of Shape Of You at the studio of Mr McCutcheon in October 2016 as a “frenetic, rapid process” with all three co-writers “suggesting ideas for melody and lyrics”.

He said: “The words ‘shape of you’ came from me,” adding: “It is a phrase used in Derry, where I come from.

“I am sensitive to objectification and I was not keen on ‘in love with your body’, so I suggested the more abstract ‘shape of you’, although both appear in the song in its finished form.”

More on Ed Sheeran

Mr McDaid said work on the song was completed in “a couple of hours or so”, noting that Mr Sheeran was “the fastest and most prolific songwriter I have ever worked with”.

He said the allegations “suggest that I was in the habit of consciously or sub-consciously appropriating the skill and labour of other songwriters during my songwriting and recording sessions”.

‘It is simply not true’

He added: “This seems to imply that I did so without seeking permission and therefore that I am a habitual infringer of other people’s copyrights.

“I wholeheartedly disagree with this implication. It is simply not true and I feel that is a very serious thing to suggest about me and how I work.

“I do not need or want to, nor would I ever, plagiarise other people’s work. The idea is abhorrent to me.”

Read more: What has been said in court?

Court sketch of Ed Sheeran as he gives evidence at the High Court. Pic: Elizabeth Cook/PA
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Court sketch of Ed Sheeran as he gave evidence at the High Court earlier in the week. Pic: Elizabeth Cook/PA

Mr Chokri, a grime artist who performs under the name Sami Switch, and Mr O’Donoghue, claim that a central “Oh I” hook in Shape Of You is “strikingly similar” to an “Oh Why” refrain in their own composition.

But Mr McDaid said in his written evidence that he does not recall ever hearing Oh Why “in any way at all” nor was he aware of Sami Switch before the legal dispute.

He said he did not create the “Oh I” phrase in Shape of You and could not remember the moment it was created.

The trial continues.

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