Does Katy Perry’s 2013 hit Dark Horse sound significantly enough like a 2008 Christian Rap song for it to be determined copyright infringement?
A Los Angeles jury decided earlier this week that yes, it does. As a result, Perry, her label Capitol Records and her other collaborators on the song (including songwriter/producers Max Martin and Dr. Luke) have to pay the creator of Joyful Noise, rapper Flame (aka Marcus Gray) seven figure damages – the equivalent, found the jury, of 22.5% of Dark Horse’s profits to date.
Perry and Capitol had been waiting three days – until yesterday (August 1) – to find out what they were due to pay, and now we know: Katy Perry must pay $550,000, while Capitol is on the rack for nearly $1.3 million.
According to the New York Times, Perry’s five collaborators behind the song have also been ordered to pay, including Max Martin, who owes $253,000, and Dr. Luke, who owes $61,000 personally, while his company, Kasz Money Inc., owes $189,000.
The total balance owed to Marcus Gray and his co-creators behind Flame? $2.78 million.
Michael A. Kahn, a lawyer for Gray, said in a statement: “Our clients filed this lawsuit five years ago seeking justice and fair compensation for the unauthorized taking of their valuable creation. It has been a long and arduous path to this day, but they are quite pleased to have received the justice they sought.”
Gray’s lawyers had been seeking nearly $20 million in damages, while those on the opposite side of the suit argued that $360,000 was the correct amount.
Between these points, the $2.78m damages bill is in the same ballpark as the amount paid out following another notorious recent plagiarism case – that of the Marvin Gaye Estate vs. Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke.
The outcome of that case was a $5m damages payout to the Gaye Estate, after a jury determined that Williams and Thicke’s Blurred Lines infringed on Gaye’s Got To Give It Up.
The below YouTube video, hosted by musician Rick Beato, is an illuminating take on the Joyful Noise vs. Dark Horse case.
Beato breaks down the musical similarities between nagging riffs which appear in each song – yet he concludes, melodically and lyrically, there is very little which can be considered alike in the two compositions.
Sadly, a commenter under Beato’s video on YouTube may make the most astute point when it comes to how the Dark Horse case could now trigger further litigious accusations of plagiarism in the music industry.
“Any song with a cowbell will [now] be sued by Blue Oyster Cult. Blue Oyster Cult will be sued by a cow.”Music Business Worldwide