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Katy Perry’s ‘Dark Horse’ Copied Christian Rapper Flame, Jury Finds

The pop star and her songwriting team will owe yet unspecified damages

Katy Perry has been held liable for copyright infringement on her single "Dark Horse."

Katy Perry has been held liable for copyright infringement on her single "Dark Horse."

Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock

UPDATE: A jury has found that Katy Perry, her collaborators and her label Capitol Records must pay $2.78 million in damages to Marcus Gray and two of his co-writers for copying elements of the Christian rapper’s 2009 song “Joyful Noise” on Perry’s 2013 song “Dark Horse,” Associated Press reports. The jury awarded the money on Thursday.

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A jury unanimously ruled that Katy Perry’s 2013 hit single “Dark Horse” improperly copied Christian rapper Flame’s 2009 song “Joyful Noise.” The nine-member federal jury in a Los Angeles determined that Perry and her co-writers and producers will owe unspecified damages for copyright infringement.

“Dark Horse,” which has sold more than 13 million copies worldwide, credits several songwriters, including Perry and Sarah Hudson, who wrote the lyrics, and rapper Juicy J, who wrote his verse. The track was produced by Dr. Luke, Max Martin and Cirkut, who created the beat in question during the week-long trial. Flame, born Marcus Gray, and Emanuel Lambert and Chike Ojukwuhis, two co-authors on “Joyful Noise,” first sued in 2014, alleging that “Dark Horse” stole the song’s memorable beat. A rep for Perry declined to comment. Reps for Dr. Luke and Juicy J did not reply to requests for comment.

Perry’s lawyers argued that if the “commonplace” beats in question were subject to copyright it could hurt all songwriters and have potential implications for music down the road. “They’re trying to own basic building blocks of music, the alphabet of music that should be available to everyone,” Perry’s lawyer Christine Lepera said during closing arguments of the trial. Lepera did not reply to a request for comment.

Perry, who was not present when the verdict was read, testified that she had never heard “Joyful Noise,” nor heard of Flame, before the lawsuit. Her co-writers testified similarly. Flame’s lawyers responded that the song was widely distributed, with millions of plays on YouTube and Spotify, and reminded the jury of Perry’s origins in the Christian music scene. His team argued that Perry and her team had ripped off the main beat and instrumental line of “Joyful Noise.”

During the trial, Perry even offered to perform “Dark Horse” live when her lawyers were unable to play the song due to a broken speaker system. The issue was eventually fixed, so no impromptu concert was necessary.

Capitol Records, Perry’s label, which distributed the single, was also found liable in the lawsuit verdict. “Dark Horse” appeared on Perry’s fourth album, Prism, released by Capitol on October 18, 2013. The track was nominated for a Grammy nomination and Perry also performed the song during her 2015 Super Bowl halftime show.

The jury will decide this week how much Flame is owed in damages by Perry and the other defendants.


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