On Monday, July 29, a jury in Los Angeles found that Katy Perry’s 2013 pop hit “Dark Horse” copied a 2008 Christian rap song by Flame called “Joyful Noise.” In 2014, the band, a.k.a. Marcus Gray and two other coauthors, sued since the songs sounded very similar.
During the week-long trial, Gray’s attorneys argued that the beat and instrumental line of “Dark Horse” is interchangeable with “Joyful Noise.” In 2015, the 34-year-old and rapper Juicy J received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, and she even performed the tune during her 2015 Super Bowl halftime show.
Perry’s attorneys declared that the beat and song are very common, according to the Associated Press. “They’re trying to own basic building blocks of music, the alphabet of music that should be available to everyone,” Perry’s lawyer Christine Lepera said during the closing arguments on Thursday, July 25. The defendants’ music expert testified that the musical patterns were as simple as “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Unfortunately, the jury of six women and three men didn’t agree. As the verdict was read, Perry was reportedly not in the courtroom.
However, Gray’s attorneys argued that “Joyful Noise” was a popular song and could have been heard by Perry and her coauthors. The song has been streamed by millions on YouTube and Spotify and was even nominated for a Grammy. “They’re trying to shove Mr. Gray into some gospel music alleyway that no one ever visits,” plaintiffs’ attorney Michael A. Kahn said during closing arguments, where he also pointed out that Perry started out in her career as a Christian artist. The jurors agreed and said it was possible that the “Dark Horse” writers might have heard “Joyful Noise” in the past.
Perry even offered to sing “Dark Horse” live during her testimony while her lawyers were having technical issues getting the song to play in the courtroom. “I could perform it live,” she said. But no performance was needed since the audio issues were fixed. Jurors heard both songs played back-to-back at the end of the closing arguments last week.
Now, the jury will decide how much Perry and the other defendants owe for copyright infringement.
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