KATY Perry did steal her Dark Horse hit from a Christian rap song, a jury has found.
The unanimous verdict comes five years after a trio of Christian rappers sued, claiming their track Joyful Noise has the same intro as Katy’s song.
Katy Perry did steal her Dark Horse hit from a Christian rap song, a jury has found[/caption]
It marks a rare takedown of a pop superstar and her elite producer, Dr Luke, by a relatively unknown artist.
The case will now go to a penalty phase, where the LA-based jury will decide how much Katy, Dr Luke and other defendants owe for copyright infringement.
Questions from the jury during their two full days of deliberations had suggested that they might find only some of the defendants liable for copyright infringement.
The case focused on the notes and beats of the song, not its lyrics or recording, and the questions suggested that Katy might be off the hook.
But in a decision that left many in the courtroom surprised, jurors found all six songwriters and all four corporations that released and distributed the songs were liable.
This includes Katy and Sarah Hudson, who wrote only the song’s words, and Juicy J, who only wrote the rap he provided for the song.
Katy was not present when the verdict was read.
Earlier this month, she had caused a stir in an LA court by offering to sing live in the witness box – to prove she didn’t copy another song.
Other defendants found liable were Capitol Records as well as Katy’s producers: Dr Luke, Max Martin and Cirkut, who came up with the song’s beat.
Marcus Gray wrote Joyful Noise along with his co-plaintiffs Emanuel Lambert and Chike Ojukwu and they released the song in 2009 under the stage name Flame.
Gray’s attorneys argued that the beat and instrumental line featured through nearly half of Dark Horse are substantially similar to those of Joyful Noise.
Dark Horse, a hybrid of pop, trap and hip-hop sounds that was the third single of Katy’s 2013 album Prism, spent four weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 in early 2014.
It even earned a Grammy nomination for Katy, who performed the song during her 2015 Super Bowl halftime show.
Her attorneys argued that 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.
“They’re trying to own basic building blocks of music, the alphabet of music that should be available to everyone,” Katy’s lawyer Christine Lepera said during closing arguments Thursday.
The defendants’ musical expert testified that the musical patterns in dispute were as simple as “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
But the jury of six women and three men disagreed, finding that the bumping beat and riff at the centre of Joyful Noise were original enough to be copyrighted.
Katy and the song’s co-authors testified during the seven-day trial that none of them had heard the song or heard of Gray before the lawsuit, nor did they listen to Christian music.
Gray’s attorneys had only to demonstrate, however, that Joyful Noise had wide dissemination and could have been heard by Katy and her co-authors.
They provided as evidence that it had millions of plays on YouTube and Spotify, and that the album it’s included on was nominated for a Grammy.
“They’re trying to shove Mr. Gray into some gospel music alleyway that no one ever visits,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Michael A. Kahn during closing arguments.
He also pointed out that Katy had begun her career as a Christian artist.
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Jurors agreed, finding that the song was distributed widely enough that the Dark Horse writers may well have heard it.
Kahn and Gray declined comment but smiled as they left the courtroom after the verdict.
Lepera and other defense attorneys also declined comment outside court.