According to a jury decision yesterday, Katy Perry’s 2013 hit Dark Horse copied a 2009 Christian rap song. The decision was unanimous.
A nine-member federal jury in an LA courtroom delivered the verdict five years after Marcus Gray and two co-authors, first sued in 2014 alleging Dark Horse stole from their Joyful Noise, a song Gray released under the stage name Flame.
The case focused on the notes and beats of the song, not the lyrics or recording, and the questions suggested that Perry might just be off the hook.
But in the end the jurors found all six songwriters and all four corporations that released and distributed the songs were liable, including Perry and Sarah Hudson, who wrote only the song’s words, and Juicy J, who wrote only the rap for the song.
Other defendants found liable were Capitol Records as well as Perry’s producers: Dr. Luke, Max Martin and Cirkut, who came up with the song’s beat.
Perry’s s is bonglend of pop, trap and hip-hop sounds and was the third single of her 2013 album Prism. It spent four weeks in Billboard Hot 100 in early 2014, and earned a Grammy nom for Perry. She performed the song during her 2015 Super Bowl halftime show.
Perry’s lawyer, Christine Lepera, said during closing arguments,
“They’re trying to own basic building blocks of music, the alphabet of music that should be available to everyone.”
But the jury of six women and three men disagreed, finding that the song’s beat and riff were original enough to be copyrighted.
Perry and the song’s co-authors testified during the seven-day trial that none of them had heard the song or heard of Gray before the lawsuit, nor did they listen to Christian music.
Gray’s attorneys had only to demonstrate, however, that Joyful Noise had wide dissemination and could have been heard by Perry and her co-authors anywhere. The album it’s included on was nominated for a Grammy.
Perry brought laughs to the proceedings when she testified when her lawyers were having technical troubles getting Dark Horse to play in the courtroom. She said in the courtroom,
“I could perform it live.”
The case now goes to a penalty phase, where the jury will decide how much Perry and other defendants owe for copyright infringement.
Perry was not present when the verdict was read.
This video below compares the two songs. What do you think?
Did Dark Horse steal from Joyful Noise?
(Photo, screen grab; via AP)