A jury's verdict that Katy Perry's 2013 hit "Dark Horse" improperly copied a 2009 Christian rap song represents a rare takedown of a pop superstar and her elite producer by a relatively unknown artist, and sets up a battle over damages that will begin Tuesday. Monday's unanimous 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 penalty phase is scheduled to start Tuesday with opening arguments and will determine how much Perry and other defendants owe for copyright infringement, per the AP. Testimony will give jurors a peek into the finances behind "Dark Horse," a hit single that earned Perry a Grammy nomination and was part of her elaborate 2015 Super Bowl halftime performance.
The case didn't focus on the song's lyrics or recording: Attorneys for Gray, who wrote the song with co-plaintiffs Emanuel Lambert and Chike Ojukwu, argued the beat and instrumental line featured through nearly half of "Dark Horse" are substantially similar to those of "Joyful Noise." Perry's attorneys, however, argued 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. One of the defendants' musical experts testified the musical patterns in dispute were as simple as those in "Mary Had a Little Lamb." But in a decision that left many in the courtroom surprised, jurors found all six songwriters and all four corporations that released and distributed Perry's song were liable. Perry wasn't present when the verdict was read. (Read more Katy Perry stories.)