ED SHEERAN HAS BEEN the target of an ‘agreed plan’ to secure his interest in a songwriter who later accused him of copying one of his songs, the High Court in London has heard.
The former management company of Sami Chokri, a grime artist who performs under the name Sami Switch, is said to have gone to a “huge effort” to introduce the star to the 2015 song Oh Why.
A company executive has claimed in written evidence for a London copyright trial that he felt ‘deceived’ and ‘upset’ by Sheeran’s alleged ‘blatant copying’ of the song in his hit from 2017 Shape Of You.
Chokri and co-writer Ross O’Donoghue say a mid-hook “Oh I” in Sheeran’s song is “strikingly similar” to an “Oh Why” in their own composition.
Sheeran and his co-writers, producer Steven McCutcheon and Snow Patrol’s John McDaid, deny copying and say they don’t recall hearing Oh Why before the legal fight.
Lawyers for Chokri and O’Donoghue have alleged that there is “clear, compelling and convincing” evidence that Oh Why was “widely available” and sent to a number of close friends and colleagues of Sheeran.
In written evidence, David May, chief executive of Artists and Company (A&C), a firm that ran Chokri, said that when Oh Why was promoted, the outfit had “a concerted plan to target Ed Sheeran in hopes of ‘engaging his interest in Sami’s work’.
“We haven’t targeted any other artist in the same way,” he said.
Shortly after the song was written, the company “started pushing harder because we felt we had a strong song and an almost finished body of work in the form of the Solace EP,” he said. he adds.
Sam Chokri arriving at the High Court in London today.
Source: Tayfun Salci/AP
May continued, “We felt that if Ed Sheeran could see Sami’s work, he would recognize his talent.
“We saw this as a real possibility because of the connections we had, and Sami had, with those around him.
“As in many other areas of life, who you know is as important as what you know.
“We knew Ed Sheeran was helping people with this and that he loved collaborating with artists like Sami.”
He said those targeted in 2015 included the late SBTV founder Jamal Edwards, Jake Roche of the Rixton Group and senior executives at Sheeran’s publisher.
In written evidence, Roche said he had never listened to Oh Why, while Edwards said he did not recall listening to the track.
Timothy Bowen, a director of A&C, said in written evidence that after hearing Shape Of You in 2017 “we were surprised by what we thought was blatant copying”.
“We were upset that Ed Sheeran had not requested permission to include the relevant part of Oh Why in Shape Of You,” he added.
“After making a huge effort to get Ed’s attention to Oh Why, the next thing we heard was part of Oh Why appearing on Ed’s song Shape Of You without any acknowledgment or request. permission.”
He claimed Sheeran’s publishing reps had “played it lightly and refused to engage with us at all.”
He also alleged that efforts to obtain information about the creation of Shape Of You were not “coming soon”, adding: “The more we tried to obtain this information – which should have been readily available – the more they told us in done ‘get lost’. The more they treated us this way, the more cheated we felt.
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“As loud as possible”
David Gibbs, another former A&C manager, said in written evidence that he was the “main person” responsible for making “as much noise as possible” about Oh Why.
“We wanted to bomb as many people as possible to promote the song. It was a qualitative and quantitative approach to people. The focus was on raising awareness,” he said.
Gibbs claimed to have had “30 or more meetings” with record labels and publishers and used social media and email to online blogs to promote the track.
He said there was a plan to “email and contact the Ed Sheeran team, to target those affected and then introduce them to Sami’s music”.
“Throughout the campaign I remember creating mind maps on whiteboard paper and usually following a regular pattern I would describe every contact around Ed Sheeran that might be important and then find ways to achieve them,” he said.
Earlier in the trial, Chokri disagreed with a suggestion from Ian Mill QC, representing the co-writers of Shape Of You, that his management company had ‘singularly failed’ to develop his career after the release. of Solace in June 2015.
Sheeran said he does not recall anyone sending Oh Why to him “in any way” before he wrote Shape Of You.
Mill previously said that Chokri and O’Donoghue’s claim that Sheeran had “access” to their work was “paper thin at best” and there was “clear evidence” that by the time Shape Of You was written, its creators had not heard Oh Why.
The three co-authors of Shape Of You launched a legal action in May 2018, asking the High Court to declare that they had not infringed the copyrights of Chokri and O’Donoghue.
In July 2018, Chokri and O’Donoghue filed their own suit for “copyright infringement, damages, and profit reporting in connection with the alleged infringement”.
The trial before Judge Zacaroli continues, with judgment expected at a later date.