It’s pretty hard to be a songwriter these days, especially if you have a hit. Chances are that you’ll be sued for copyright infringement and chances are you’ll lose in court. That’s what happened to Katy Perry as a Los Angeles federal court ruled that her song “Dark Horse” copied part of Marcus Gray’s 2008 Christian rap song “Joyful Noise.”
Perry won’t be responsible herself for paying the entire judgement though. Her “Dark Horse” collaborators Lukasz Gottwald (Dr. Luke), Karl Martin Sandberg (Max Martin), Henry Walter (Cirkut), songwriter Sarah Hudson and Jordan Michael Houston (Juicy J), as well as Capitol Records, Warner Bros. Music Corporation, Kobalt Publishing and Kasz Money Inc. were also found liable.
The suit was actually started in 2014 when Gray (also known as Flame) claimed that Perry and her collaborators had used the beat from his 2008 track “Joyful Noise” in “Dark Horse” without permission.
All of the defendants claimed they never heard the song before the suit was initiated and that may well be true. “Joyful Noise” was a hit in Christian circles, but certainly never attained widespread popularity, with the video only garnering 3.6 million views on YouTube compared to “Dark Horse” at 2.6 billion. Likewise, “Joyful Noise” has 3.37 million plays on Spotify compared to 609 million for “Dark Horse”.
That said, you don’t have to knowingly copy something to infringe on its copyright, and the jury of 6 women and 3 men decided for Gray after hearing both songs back to back (see the video below).
It’s not yet known if Katy Perry will appeal the decision, but her attorneys are petitioning the judge to overturn the jury’s decision as meritless based on the evidence presented during the trial. The jury has yet to determine the damages owed to Gray, but it’s expected to be in the millions. Stay tuned for more as this story has definitely not ended.
Here’s a comparison between the 2 songs.