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 begin Tuesday with opening arguments, and will ultimately determine how much Perry and other defendants owe for copyright infringement. Testimony will give jurors a peek into the finances behind “Dark Horse,” a hit single that earned Perry a Grammy nomination and was the second song in her elaborate 2015 Super Bowl halftime performance.
Questions from the jury during two 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 Perry 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, including Perry and Sarah Hudson, who wrote only the song’s words, and Juicy J, who only wrote the rap he provided for the song. Perry was not present when the verdict was read.