Katy Perry’s 2013 Grammy-nominated hit single “Dark Horse” has been deemed too similar to a 2008 Christian rap song and, after a week-long trial, Perry was found guilty of copying the track. The song in question is “Joyful Noise” by a Christian artist named Flame who launched his lawsuit against Perry in 2014.
Perry released the moody pop song with rapper Juicy J as the first promotional single from her fourth studio album Prism and the duo wrote the track with producers Max Martin, Cirkut, Dr. Luke and songwriter Sarah Hudson. When the song came out in December 2013, “Dark Horse” was anything but and reached number one in Canada, the U.S. and Netherlands, with Perry performing the song at the 2014 Grammy Awards and receiving a nomination along with Juicy J for Best Pop/Duo Group Performance at the Grammys the following year.
You’re probably familiar with Perry’s earworm but here’s rapper Flame’s track, which includes an F-bomb and proves Christian rap isn’t necessarily what you think it is.
The lawyer’s representing Gray and his two co-authors, Emanuel Lambert and Chike Ojukwu, spent the week arguing that Perry and Juicy J’s “Dark Horse” had the same beat and instrumentals as “Joyful Noise.” Perry’s lawyer Christine Lepera stated that finding Katy and her co-writers guilty would be a disservice to musicians everywhere because of the commonality of using simple beats in songs. “They’re trying to own basic building blocks of music, the alphabet of music that should be available to everyone,” said Lepera during the closing statements on July 25. “The defendants’ musical expert testified that the musical patterns in dispute were as simple as ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb.'”
During the week-long trial, Perry and her fellow defendants testified that they had never heard the song though Gray’s lawyer argued that Perry, a former Christian pop artist, could have easily been exposed to the song during her musical past. The 34-year-old star testified during the second day of the trial and when technical difficulties interfered with playing “Dark Horse” in court, Perry offered a solution, saying “I could perform it live.” This is a serious matter but that’s a boss move.
According to the Associated Press, the jury spent two days deliberating, leading many to believe that Perry and Hudson, who wrote the lyrics, and Juicy J, who wrote his rap lyrics, would be cleared of any wrongdoing since they were not involved on the music side. Instead, the jury found all six songwriters and producers guilty.
Perry and co. now await the ruling on what amount of damages they’ll have to pay over the copyright infringement. You may recall that the 2013 lawsuit against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams over “Blurred Lines” ended with the two men paying $5 million to the Marvin Gaye estate after the late singer’s family argued that the song copied Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up.” The pair also must pay the estate 50 percent of all future earnings on the song.
Ed Sheeran has already settled two copyright infringement cases out of court, first for his song “Photograph,” which was accused of being too similar to Matt Cardle’s “Amazing,” and later for the song “The Rest of Our Lives,” which he wrote for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill and was found to be copying Jasmine Rae’s “When I Found You.” Sheeran will likely be watching the outcome of Perry’s case closely as he’s scheduled in court this September for a lawsuit levied by Ed Townsend’s estate, claiming that Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” is a rip-off of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” which Townsend wrote.