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Katy Perry loses ‘Dark Horse’ lawsuit

A jury has ruled that Katy stole instrumentals from a Christian rap song titled ‘Joyful Noise’ for her own hit ‘Dark Horse’. 

Katy Perry’s ‘Dark Horse’ was one of the biggest songs of 2014. It currently sits on a healthy 2.6 billion views on YouTube, was Perry’s ninth US No. 1 single, and earned her a Grammy award nomination. To say it was a smash success is probably an understatement.

It seems that it’s been giving her legal team a headache for quite some time, however. Following a claim made by Marcus Gray, a Christian rapper who goes by the recording name ‘Flame’, a jury found that both Katy Perry and six of the track’s songwriters owe damages for infringed copywrite.

How much will be paid out is currently unknown and will be decided at a hearing which begins today. The claim was only concerned with the beat of the track, but lyricists Sarah Hudson and Juicy J have also been told to pay up for their contribution to the song.

Katy’s video was denounced for associating religious groups with black magic and witchcraft by Flame as soon as it was released. She also endured backlash for wearing a pendant that inscribed ‘Allah’ in Arabic script, with a petition online garnering over 50,000 signatures demanding its removal from YouTube. The petition wasn’t successful.

In the years since the claim was first made by Flame, a lengthy court ordeal plagued with technical issues and back-and-forth argument has ensued, with fans falling either side as to whether Katy did actually ‘steal’ the song’s instrumentals. Katy apparently offered to sing ‘Dark Horse’ herself for the jury when the court struggled to play the track from a computer, which was met with many lols (but wasn’t funny enough for them to let her off).

Listen to the original ‘Joyful Noise’ for yourself below.

Whether or not the right call was made here is a tricky one to work out. While both songs do have similar qualities, the copywrite claim was made on a generic chord progression and use of synthesizers. As Perry’s lawyers argued, Flame has successfully claimed a basic building block of music production, rather than a unique song structure.

Another thing to consider is that the success of the claim may encourage copycat lawsuits, which could make putting together pop bangers trickier in the future. The line between simple song writing and specific, stolen art is very blurry, and this could be considered an exploitative use of this ambiguity.

Whichever way you view the two tracks, Flame is about to become a rich man. We can’t imagine the cost of damages will be low, given how popular the song was when it was released. How this affects other song claims and copywrite issues has yet to be seen, but it’s worth keeping an eye on our favourite songs in future, just in case they get swept up in a legal wave of copywrite.