Ed Sheeran was allegedly targeted with a “concerted plan” to secure his interest in the songwriter who has now accused him of plagiarism.
The former management company for Sami Chokri, an artist who performs under the name Sami Switch, told the High Court they made a “huge effort” to bring his 2015 song “Oh Why” to Sheeran’s notice.
One company director claimed that they felt “cheated” and “upset” by Sheeran’s alleged “blatant copying” of the song in his 2017 hit “Shape Of You.”
Chokri and his co-writer Ross O’Donoghue claim that a central “Oh I” hook in Sheeran’s song is “strikingly similar” to an “Oh Why” in their own composition.
Sheeran and his co-authors, producer Steven McCutcheon and Snow Patrol’s John McDaid, have denied the allegations of plagiarism, adding that they do not remember hearing “Oh Why” before writing “Shape of You”.
They launched legal proceedings in May 2018, asking the High Court to declare they had not infringed Chokri and O’Donoghue’s copyright.
In July 2018, the defendants issued their own claim for “copyright infringement, damages and an account of profits in relation to the alleged infringement”.
Now David May, the managing director of Artists and Company (A&C) that used to manage Chokri, has said that the firm had “a concerted plan to target Sheeran in the hope of engaging his interest in Sami’s work” when “Oh Why” was being promoted,
“We did not target any other artist in the same way,” he said, adding, “We knew Ed Sheeran helped people with this and that he liked to collaborate with artists like Sami.”
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Timothy Bowen, an A&C director, said that “we were surprised by what we thought was a blatant copying” after hearing Sheeran’s song in 2017.
He also claimed Sheeran’s publishing representatives gave “short shrift and refused to engage with us at all” and that efforts to get information over the creation of “Shape Of You” were not “forthcoming”.
“The more we tried to obtain this information – which should have been readily available – the more they told us to, in effect, ‘get lost’.”
David Gibbs, another former director at A&C, identified himself as the “main person” responsible for making “as much noise as possible” about “Oh Why”, adding A&C “wanted to bombard as many people as possible to promote the song.”
Earlier in the trial, Chokri disagreed with a suggestion by Ian Mill QC – representing the “Shape Of You” co-writers – that his management firm had “singularly failed” to develop his career after the release of his EP Solace in June 2015.
Mill has also previously said that Chokri and O’Donoghue’s claim that his clients had “access” to their work was “at best, paper thin”.
The trial before Justice Zacaroli continues, with judgment expected at a later date.
Additional reporting by Press Association