Katy Perry hit ‘Dark Horse’ copied Christian rap song, jury finds
Court will now assess damages owed to writer of song entitled ‘Joyful Noise’ by Marcus Gray
A federal jury in Los Angeles has found that Katy Perry’s 2013 hit Dark Horse copied a Christian rap song called Joyful Noise, in the music industry’s latest legal battle over copyright infringement.
After a weeklong trial that included testimony by Perry and her longtime producer Dr Luke, the nine-person jury returned a unanimous verdict that Perry’s song had infringed the copyright of Joyful Noise, a 2008 song by the artist Flame, whose real name is Marcus Gray.
The next phase of the trial, to begin Tuesday, will determine the damages owed by Perry and her co-writers, including Dr Luke, whose real name is Lukasz Gottwald; producer Max Martin; Henry Walter, known as Cirkut; Sarah Hudson; and rapper Juicy J, who performed on the track.
At trial, Perry and Dr Luke testified that they had never heard Joyful Noise. But Gray and his lawyers argued that even though the song was in a niche market, it had been successful to the point it appeared on an LP nominated for a Grammy Award, for best rock or rap gospel album, that Perry and her team could have heard. They accused Perry’s producers of borrowing the underlying beat of Joyful Noise without permission.
Gray further argued that his reputation as a Christian gospel artist had been harmed by the “anti-Christian witchcraft, paganism, black magic, and Illuminati imagery evoked by ‘Dark Horse,’ especially in the music video version”.
Perry’s lawyers argued that what little Dark Horse and Joyful Noise had in common were basic musical patterns that were not entitled to copyright protection.
Lawyers for Gray declined to comment and representatives for Perry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Copyright cases like this rarely go before a jury but they have been watched particularly closely in the music industry since the 2015 trial over the song Blurred Lines, in which Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were found to have copied Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit Got to Give It Up, and ultimately had to pay more than $5 million.
Some songwriters and intellectual property lawyers have argued that such cases have unfairly penalise songwriters for making use of generic musical elements, like a song’s beats and “feel”.
In September, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, in San Francisco, is scheduled to rehear a copyright case over Led Zeppelin’s classic Stairway to Heaven. That case is being watched so closely that a New York judge delayed a trial over Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud pending the outcome of that appeal. - New York Times