Katy Perry and her label will pay $2.7 million in copyright infringement case.
Katy Perry’s 2013 hit “Dark Horse” allegedly copied the 2009 Christian rap song “Joyful Noise,” according to its artist Marcus Gray (stage name “Flame”) who sued Perry, her producer, six songwriters, and corporations the released the hit in 2014. The suit was focused on the notes of the song rather than the actual lyrics. Now the superstar is set to pay out $2.7 million.
Perry snagged a Grammy nomination for her hit song and performed it at the 2015 Super Bowl halftime show. The song hit the Billboard Hot 100 in 2014 and stayed there for a month.
It was a surprise to many when the jury sided with Gray and his co-plaintiffs, determining that all songwriters and all corporations who distributed the tun were liable. The decision also included Perry, Sarah Hudson, writer of the song’s lyrics, and Juicy J, who only wrote the rap portion. Other defendant’s liable include Capitol Records, and producers Max Martin, Dr. Luke, and Cirkut.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys determined that the instrumental aspects were substantially similar to “Joyful Nose,” which Gray wrote all with Chike Ojukwu and Emanuel Lambert. According to the lawsuit, Flame said “Perry also destroyed his reputation in Christian music circles because he’s now associated with the anti-Christian witchcraft and imagery that’s present in her ‘Dark Horse’ music video.”
Perry’s attorneys argued that the song sections in question “represent the kind of simple musical elements that if found to be subject to copyright would hurt music and all songwriters.” The defense called a musical expert who contended that the beat was “as simple as Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
“They’re trying to own basic building blocks of music, the alphabet of music that should be available to everyone,” Attorney Christine Lepera said.
However, the jury disagreed, noting that the tune was unique and subject to copyright.
Perry and the song’s co-authors testified during the trial that none of them “had heard the song or heard of Gray before the lawsuit, nor did they listen to Christian music.” Perry said she initially heard the beats from Dr. Luke while “they were drinking wine in Santa Barbara,” and claimed she wrote her song in only four hours.
This didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, because the plaintiffs argued that “Joyful Noise” was readily available in the market and the defendants could have stumbled across it. In fact, the album that included the original song was nominated for a Grammy.
“They’re trying to shove Mr. Gray into some gospel music alleyway that no one ever visits,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Michael A. Kahn during closing arguments. He added that Perry had also started as a Christian artist.
Perry was present in the courtroom on the second day of trial when her attorneys were having trouble getting “Dark Horse” to play.
“I could perform it live,” she joked before the issue was fixed. She was cool, calm, and collected, likely believing the jury would not decide as it did.
Perry will share the pay out with her record label.