Court Rules That Katy Perry Stole Christian Rapper Flame’s Beat for ‘Dark Horse’

A jury on Monday found that Katy Perry’s 2013 hit “Dark Horse” improperly copied a 2009 Christian rap song in a unanimous decision that represented a rare takedown of a pop superstar and her elite producer by a relatively unknown artist.

The verdict by a nine-member federal jury in a Los Angeles courtroom came five years after Marcus Gray and two co-authors, first sued in 2014 alleging “Dark Horse” stole from “Joyful Noise,” a song Gray released under the stage name Flame.

The case now goes to a penalty phase, where the jury will decide how much Perry and other defendants owe for copyright infringement.

Questions from the jury during their two full days of deliberations had suggested that they might find only some of the defendants liable for copyright infringement. The case focused on the notes and beats of the song, not its lyrics or recording, and the questions suggested that Perry might be off the hook.

But in a decision that left many in the courtroom surprised, jurors found all six songwriters and all four corporations that released and distributed the songs were liable, including Perry and Sarah Hudson, who wrote only the song’s words, and Juicy J, who only wrote the rap he provided for the song. Perry was not present when the verdict was read.

Other defendants found liable were Capitol Records as well as Perry’s producers: Dr. Luke, Max Martin and Cirkut, who came up with the song’s beat.

Gray’s attorneys argued that the beat and instrumental line featured through nearly half of “Dark Horse” are substantially similar to those of “Joyful Noise.” Gray wrote the song with his co-plaintiffs Emanuel Lambert and Chike Ojukwu.

“Dark Horse,” a hybrid of pop, trap and hip-hop sounds that was the third single of Perry’s 2013 album “Prism,” spent four weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 in early 2014, and earned a Grammy nomination for Perry, who performed the song during her 2015 Super Bowl halftime show.

Her attorneys argued that the song sections in question represent the kind of simple musical elements that if found to be subject to copyright would hurt music and all songwriters.

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Source: Religion News Service