I’ve been so busy that I had a bit of a break from my VLOG’s, but this topic was worth making time for. In this episode, I take a look at the copyright court case between Sami Chokri and world-famous Ed Sheeran. I explore some interesting twists in the case – real similarities or just coincidence? And should these types of copyright claims be allowed?
Check it out and tell me what you think.
You’ll find the full transcript below:
Hi there. I’m back. It’s been a hiatus, but here I am. I’ve been a bit busy, but nothing would attract me back to video blogging as much as the excitement of a really good, meaty music copyright dispute that goes to court. In this case, we’re talking about Ed Sheeran, and he was sued for copyright breech by a guy called Sami Chokri, who wrote a song in 2015 called “Oh Why.” And he claimed that Ed pirated bits of that with his 2017 smash hit “Shape of You.” Now that song apparently is the most streamed song ever on Spotify. And in court, they said that it earns over 5 million pounds per year, so that’s a lot of money to go to court over, probably worth it. Ed claimed that the similarities were just a coincidence.
There’s only so many notes and very few chords used in pop music. Coincidence is bound to happen if 60,000 songs are being released every day on Spotify.
Well, yes, Ed, but there’s a lot of combinations there that make up melodies. Anyway, the judge acknowledged those similarities, said that the songs were similar, but then he found in favour of Ed and said that he hadn’t breached Chokri’s copyright. But there was some really interesting twists in this case. One of them is what the judge actually found. He said that, “I find, as a matter of fact, that he,” that is Ed, “had not heard Chokri’s song.” And in order for the infringement to be proven, Chokri had to prove that Ed had heard his song, and he couldn’t do that. Really? I reckon that’s nonsense. How could you possibly find, as a matter of fact, that Ed had never heard the song? I mean, how many songs has Ed listened to? How many songs have you listened to in your life? Nobody could possibly prove what song I had or hadn’t listened to. It just doesn’t make sense.
One of the other interesting things is that both sides called in musicologists, and guess what? They disagreed with each other. One of them said that the songs were distinctly different, and the other one said there are significant similarities. Well, what a surprise. You can always find a musicologist to back up your side of the case it seems. But then the other really interesting thing was the way Ed reacted. He basically said that, more or less, said that people shouldn’t be allowed to bring music copyright claims like this.
So 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’s no base for the claim. And I hope with this ruling, it means in the future, baseless claims like this can be avoided. This really does have to end.
Now, I love Ed. I really do. We’ve been to a couple of his concerts. We were fortunate enough to get tickets from Kobalt to a stadium show with about two hours notice. We really scrambled for that one in the pouring rain, and it was fantastic. And then we went to another huge stadium show and it was fantastic again. I’m a big fan of Ed’s music, including the last album that’s just come out. We love it here. But I think Ed might have gone a bridge too far this time by just kind of overstepping the mark a bit and suggesting that music copyright claims shouldn’t be allowed. Ed was apparently pretty angry. In the video he said…
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 sort of implied that it’s unfair that he has to go to court to defend his music copyright because it’s really stressful. I don’t know if I agree with that, Ed. Look, I really sympathize with Ed. It would be really stressful when you do something creative and then someone else claims that you stole it, particularly if you didn’t steal it. But on the other hand, copyright law exists for a reason. If it wasn’t there, then everybody would be able to rip off Ed’s songs and I don’t think he’d be saying the same things if the shoe was on the other foot. Anyway, in my next music licensing episode, I’m going to delve back into the past and talk a bit about what happens when there is no copyright protection and it’s a free for all. And we’ll look back at the beginnings of rock and roll and see how many people got ripped off there when it was not possible to do a copyright claim in court.
Please contact us if you need help with music searches or licensing songs for advertising campaigns, or just want to chat about music and advertising. We would love to hear from you! About anything really.
bruce at musicmill.com.au
Credit: the opening and closing sequences feature “Strong Hands” from Ben Catley:
The song: https://soundcloud.com/bencatley/stro…
About Ben: open.spotify.com/artist/66OGdUyXn2WSipn6ZYq7id
Disclaimer re copyright and fair use: https://www.musicmill.com.au/fair-use/