“Dark Horse” Gets Scratched

08/13/2019 | Business Litigation

“Dark Horse” Gets Scratched

Last month, a federal jury in Los Angeles found that Katy Perry’s 2014 hit song, “Dark Horse,” was a copy infringement of a 2009 Christian rap song called “Joyful Noise”. The song’s writer Marcus Gray and two co-authors filed the lawsuit back in 2014, claiming that the beats and instrumentals featured in “Dark Horse” were substantially similar to those in “Joyful Noise.”

Although Perry and the other defendants who helped produce the hit song said they had never even heard “Joyful Noise” before producing “Dark Horse,” Gray’s attorney just had to show that there was wide dissemination of the song and that “Dark Horse’s” creators could have heard it.  Gray successfully did so, showing that “Joyful Noise” has over a million plays on YouTube and Spotify and was nominated for a Grammy.

The jury heard closing arguments and, on August 2, 2019, awarded over $2.8 million in damages to Gray, including $550,000 from Perry herself and another $1.3 million from her label, Capital Records. The damages were based, in part, on the $2.5 million in profit Perry earned from the song. 

The ruling is on pace with the copyright infringement award Marvin Gaye’s children received in 2018 when they were awarded $7 million after a court found that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ song “Blurred Lines” was very similar to Gaye’s song “Got to Give it Up.” Perry’s attorneys say they intend to appeal the award to the U.S. Ninth Circuit.