Ed Sheeran in Shape Of You copyright dispute

Shape Of You was a huge hit for Ed Sheeran and it remains the most streamed-song ever on Spotify. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - British singer Ed Sheeran appeared at London's High Court on Friday (March 4) as a copyright trial opened over allegations that his hit song, Shape Of You, lifted musical phrases from another track.

Shape Of You, released 2017, was a huge hit for Sheeran and it remains the most streamed-song ever on Spotify, with more than three billion streams.

It won the 31-year-old singer-songwriter a Grammy for Best Pop Solo Performance. He has a writing credit on the track along with several others.

But two other songwriters, Sami Chokri and Ross O'Donoghue, alleged that Sheeran's song has musical similarities to one they wrote called Oh Why.

Sheeran, who turned up at the hearing in a dark suit and tie, denied the allegation.

In 2018, Sheeran and the song's other credited writers launched legal action against Chokri and O'Donoghue, prompting the pair to launch their own claim for "copyright infringements, damages and an account of the profit in relation to the alleged infringement".

The legal battle is expected to last three weeks, with judge Antony Zacaroli listening to both songs in court on Friday.

Lawyer Andrew Sutcliffe, representing the aggrieved songwriters, told the judge that "the similarity between the two hooks is striking" and the songs "sound almost identical".

"This, of course, does not by itself prove that copying has taken place, but it's a vital starting point," he added.

Mr Sutcliffe suggested that Sheeran is a "magpie" who "borrows ideas" and will sometimes not acknowledge them.

Sheeran's lawyers have told the High Court that he and his co-writers have no memory of having heard the song Oh Why at the time.

The PRS for Music, which pays out royalties for the use of music, has temporarily halted royalty payments.

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