Katy Perry Emerges the Victor in 'Dark Horse' Suit

Songwriters are off the hook as court upholds decision to vacate copyright infringement ruling
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 2, 2019 6:07 AM CDT
Updated Mar 11, 2022 9:00 AM CST

(Newser) Update: Katy Perry and her co-writers of "Dark Horse" can breathe a sigh of relief. A federal appeals court ruled 3-0 on Thursday that Christian rapper Flame—initially awarded $2.8 million in damages for copyright infringement—failed to prove anything "original" was copied from his 2009 song "Joyful Noise." As such, the March 2020 decision by a federal district court judge to vacate the earlier ruling is upheld, per Rolling Stone. An eight-note riff Flame argued was copied in "Dark Horse" is not "particularly unique or rare" and consists "entirely of commonplace musical elements," the panel found, per the BBC, adding the original ruling would have stifled musical creativity. Our original story from Aug. 2, 2019 follows:

The Grammy-nominated 2013 hit "Dark Horse" will cost Katy Perry and her team a whopping $2.78 million, per USA Today. A jury of nine who ruled that the song improperly copied from 2009 rap song "Joyful Noise" ordered Perry to pay $550,000 to Christian rapper Flame—real name Marcus Gray—and co-authors Emanuel Lambert and Chike Ojukwu on Thursday. Capitol Records will be on the hook for $1.2 million, with the rest of the penalty believed to be applied to Dr. Luke and seven other songwriters, per TMZ.

The two songs are not lyrically similar but share a 16-second musical riff, per BuzzFeed. Lawyers for Gray requested $20 million, claiming Perry's album Prism and its third single "Dark Horse" have so far earned Capitol Records $31 million and Perry herself some $3 million. Defense attorneys who suggested a penalty of $360,000 said those figures didn't cover expenses including a marketing campaign, employee salaries, and artist royalties. One record label attorney told jurors that Capitol Records' profit was just $650,000 after expenses. (Read more Katy Perry stories.)

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