A singer locked in a legal battle with Ed Sheeran over the copyright of his 2017 hit Shape Of You says he was “shocked” by alleged similarities with his own song.
Sami Chokri claims Shape Of You infringes “particular lines and phrases” of his 2015 track Oh Why.
In a legal row, Mr Chokri and co-writer Ross O’Donoghue argue that a central “Oh I” hook in Sheeran’s song is “strikingly similar” to an “Oh Why” refrain in their own composition.
Sheeran and his co-authors, producer Steven McCutcheon and Snow Patrol’s John McDaid, deny allegations of copying and say they do not remember hearing Oh Why before the legal fight.
A High Court trial in London began hearing live evidence from Mr Chokri, who performs under the name Sami Switch, on Monday.
In a written submission, Mr Chokri called himself a “rapper, a spoken word poet, a singer and a songwriter”.
He wrote: “In 2017, a few of my friends said that the new song by Ed Sheeran sounded incredibly similar to my song, Oh Why.
“I recall the moment I first heard Shape Of You. I was a passenger in my girlfriend’s car and Shape Of You came on the radio.
“She and I were both shocked to hear the similarities in the hook of Oh Why and Shape Of You. She pulled over the car and we said, ‘This is what everyone is talking about.’”
Mr Chokri said he had tried to get Sheeran to listen to his music because he was “inspired by his success and stardom”.
He said that, during the promotion of Oh Why, he and his management wanted to get his EP “to the attention of labels and publishers, and writers and performers, who might support and enhance my career”.
He continued: “In particular, we discussed getting them to Ed Sheeran and Sticky Studios, where we knew that Ed Sheeran was recording around the same time.”
He added: “We wanted to get Ed and his team to hear Oh Why as I was inspired by his success and stardom and his endorsement would be a significant boost.”
During Monday’s hearing, Mr Chokri, from Reading, said his Solace EP, which featured Oh Why, was written when he was “having a bit of a difficult period of time”, adding: “Making music at that time felt like solace; comfort in my pain.”
He told the court Oh Why is the song he is “most proud of”.
Under cross examination from Sheeran’s barrister Ian Mill QC, Mr Chokri disagreed with a suggestion his management firm had “singularly failed” to develop his career after the release of Solace in June 2015.
The court heard that Mr Chokri only registered Oh Why with PRS for Music – the industry body that collects and distributes royalties – in 2017.
Mr Chokri told the court: “My main focus for this EP was to get my name out there, like a mix tape… I didn’t think about money at all.”
Mr Mill put it to him that “the reason you registered then was because you had in mind the claim about copyright infringement”.
The court has previously heard that PRS for Music has suspended certain payments to Sheeran and his co-writers for the performances or broadcasts of Shape Of You.
Mr Chokri said he knew about the suspension but “didn’t know that signing up to PRS was for that purpose”.
In his written evidence, Mr Chokri said both he and Sheeran had worked with the late SBTV founder Jamal Edwards and had both recorded at Sticky Studios, adding that he had also discussed getting the EP to people with connections to Sheeran.
He continued: “I thought he would be accessible because we have friends in common… and I knew he was into my style of music.”
Sheeran said he does not remember meeting Mr Chokri nor hearing Oh Why.
He and his co-authors launched legal proceedings in May 2018, asking the High Court to declare they had not infringed Mr Chokri and Mr O’Donoghue’s copyright.
In July 2018, Mr Chokri and Mr O’Donoghue issued their own claim for “copyright infringement, damages and an account of profits in relation to the alleged infringement”.
The trial before Mr Justice Zacaroli continues, with a judgment expected at a later date.
Published: 14/03/2022 by Radio NewsHub