2 August 2019CopyrightSaman Javed

Katy Perry and Capitol Records must pay rapper $2.7m

Katy Perry and her record label must pay almost $3 million in damages to a rapper after a jury found, earlier this week, that her single “Dark Horse” infringed his copyright.

In an  announcement yesterday, August 1,  Capes Sokol, the US law firm representing rapper Marcus Gray, said the jury had unanimously agreed that Perry, Capitol Records and others who worked on the song should pay a combined total of $2.78 million.

On Monday this week, after five years of litigation, a jury at the  US District Court for the Central District of California found that “Dark Horse” copies elements of Gray’s 2008 song “Joyful Noise”.

Musician Chike Ojukwu, who produced the instrumental for “Joyful Noise” also brought the case against Perry.

Perry’s lawyers had argued that Gray did not own the copyright for the instrumental beat to “Joyful Noise”, and that Gray failed to prove that “Dark Horse” and “Joyful Noise” are “substantially similar”.

In his original complaint, Gray, who is a Christian, had also taken issue with the “Dark Horse” music video due to the fact that “Joyful Noise” pays tribute to Jesus and the Bible.

“The devoutly religious message of ‘Joyful Noise’ has been irreparably tarnished by its association with witchcraft, paganism, black magic, and Illuminati imagery evoked by the same music in ‘Dark Horse’,” the filing said.

Michael Kahn, senior counsel at Capes Sokol who worked on the case, said the litigation was “truly a David versus Goliath struggle”.

“We filed this lawsuit five years ago on behalf of our clients, who sought justice for the unauthorised taking of their valuable creation.

“While the path has been long and arduous, our clients are pleased to have finally received the justice they sought from a jury of their peers,” Kahn said.

Michael Keyes, a partner at Dorsey & Whitney, said the decision “is a huge blow to artists and record companies”.

“It is a disturbing verdict and a troubling time for the music industry for the following reason.

"The test for music copyright infringement is fundamentally broken.  Under our current system, a defendant can be held liable when a very short musical snippet (in this case a four-beat, three-note phrase, sounds similar to another musical pattern," Keyes said.

He added that the industry will likely continue to see more cases like this being pursued.

“This verdict will simply add more fuel to this musical fire," Keyes said.

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More on this story

11 October 2019   Katy Perry has labelled a jury’s decision to find her liable for copyright infringement over her song “Dark Horse” and award a Christian rapper $2.7 million in damages as a “grave miscarriage of justice”.
9 January 2020   The Christian rapper at the heart of the “Dark Horse” copyright clash is attempting to bar the submission of an amicus brief by a group of musicologists, which he claims is “unabashedly partisan” to Katy Perry’s arguments.
18 March 2020   Katy Perry’s song “Dark Horse” did not infringe the copyright of “Joyful Noise”, a song by Christian rapper Flame, according to a US District Court of California ruling, overturning a previous jury verdict against the pop star.