Katy Perry is on the hook for a big bill after her 2013 song “Dark Horse” was found in copyright violation. Following a week-long trial, a jury decided that Perry’s song “Dark Horse” with Juicy J was similar enough to Flame’s 2008 song “Joyful Noise” that the Christian rapper should receive $2.7 million USD in damages.
Perry wrote the lyrics for the single with songwriter Sarah Hudson, while Juicy J supplied his own rap verse. As for the song’s music backing and beat, which was the focus of the trial, it was constructed by producers Max Martin, Cirkut, and Dr. Luke. Although Perry wasn’t involved on the music side of the arrangement, her past as a Christian pop artist was brought up throughout the trial, with Flame’s legal team arguing that Perry could have easily been exposed to the song during the early days of her career. In the end, Perry is on the hook for $550,000 of the $2.7 million settlement.
Flame, aka Marcus Gray, and his legal team argued that the beat from “Joyful Noise” made up 45 percent of the beat from “Dark Horse,” with the prosecution arguing that Flame and his two co-writers should therefore receive 45 percent of the profits from “Dark Horse.”
The earnings from “Dark Horse,” which was nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 2015 Grammys, were a point of contention throughout the trial. Flame’s lawyers argued that the song, which sold 13.2 million units, made $41 million. An agreement entered in court records states that Perry made $3.2 million from “Dark Horse,” but incurred $800,000 in expenses. Capitol Records, who released the song, made $31 million from “Dark Horse,” but the label’s legal team argued that after expenses were paid, the song only netted a profit of $630,000. Huh. We may not know the ins and outs of the record industry, but that math seems more than a little off.
Gray’s attorney Michael Kahn made a statement after the settlement was reached and told ABC News, “My clients feel vindicated, they feel that they received justice. They are not gloating over this, they are deeply religious people, Christian gospel musicians. They felt that they had been wronged, that something of value had been taken without their permission, and they wanted justice and felt that they received justice.”
All things considered, Perry and co. got off relatively easy with the settlement. Robin Thicke and Pharrell faced a similar lawsuit by the Marvin Gaye estate over their 2013 song “Blurred Lines” and ended up paying $5 million plus 50 percent of all future earnings on the track. What rhymes with copying?