Nearly six years after its release, Katy Perry’s song “Dark Horse” is back in the spotlight. A jury in Los Angeles found on Monday, July 29, that the 2013 pop hit copied “Joyful Noise” — a 2008 Christian rap song by Flame.
The decision comes five years after Flame, a.k.a. Marcus Gray, and two other co-authors sued over the songs’ similarities. During the week-long trial, Gray’s attorneys argued that the beat and instrumentals of “Dark Horse,” for which Perry and rapper Juicy J received a 2015 Grammy nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, rip off those of “Joyful Noise.”
Attorneys for the pop star, meanwhile, contended that the song was built on the same musical elements that other songwriters use. “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 asserted during closing arguments last week, according to the Associated Press.
Perry and other co-authors of “Dark Horse,” including controversial producer Dr. Luke, testified during the trial that they had not heard Gray’s song and were not familiar with the rapper before the lawsuit.
But the plaintiffs’ team pointed to the YouTube performance of “Joyful Noise” and the Grammy nomination Gray received for the 2008 album Our World: Redeemed as evidence that Perry and the co-authors could have heard the song.
“They’re trying to shove Mr. Gray into some gospel music alleyway that no one ever visits,” plaintiffs’ attorney Michael A. Kahn said during closing arguments, noting that Perry had begun her career as a Christian artist.
Perry did bring a little levity to the trial, offering to sing “Dark Horse” live during her testimony while her lawyers struggled to get the chart-topping track to play in the courtroom.
Now the nine-member federal jury will decide how much the plaintiffs are owed for copyright infringement.