A Dark Day For Music: Katy Perry sued for her song “Dark Horse” in ANOTHER high-profile copyright case

August 15, 2019

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Earlier this month, it was ruled that those involved in the song “Dark Horse” owe 22.5% of its profits to Flame, the not-so-famous singer of “Joyful Noise”, for the similarities in their songs.

What does this mean?

Katy Perry, Capitol Records (her label) and five collaborators on the song have been ordered to pay this hefty sum of nearly $2.8 million on the ground of copyright infringement. The jury came to a unanimous decision that there was a close resemblance between “Dark Horse” and “Joyful Noise”, while agreeing that “Dark Horse” used the underlying beat of “Joyful Noise” without permission.

What's the big picture effect?

This case joins a long line of high-profile copyright infringement cases. Most notably, in 2015, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were ordered to pay $7 million to Marvin Gaye’s estate for their song “Blurred Lines”.In fact, they appealed the verdict and eventually paid a lesser sum of $5 million to Gaye’s family. 

In light of this, Katy Perry’s lawyers have stated that she will be appealing the decision, as she maintains that “Dark Horse” is an original piece of work. As argued by Katy Perry’s lawyers, the beat was too common to be protected by copyright laws.

It seems that the lawyers may have a valid claim. When evaluating the two songs, it is clear that the only source of similarity is in the repetition of four notes, known as an ostinato. Therefore, in finding that there exists a copyright infringement for that one reason, the jury are relaxing the standard of proof in a way that could lead to serious repercussions for songwriters. It could deter hit-producing songwriters from writing songs in order to avoid being slapped with a copyright claims by unknown singers.

With that being said, a dismissal of Katy Perry’s appeal may very well be a dangerous precedent, and as more high-profile individuals begin to suffer this lowered standard of proof, the question of whether this area of law needs to be reformed may very well be a topic worth discussing.

Report written by Harina Chandhok

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