Katy Perry wins $2.8 million 'Dark Horse' copyright infringement case as judge reverses previous jury ruling
Pop star Katy Perry has been handed a welcome bit of news after hearing that a judge had reversed the verdict in the copyright infringement case regarding her hit song 'Dark Horse'.
Federal Judge Christina A Snyder issued a ruling on Tuesday, March 17, that overturned the jury's previous verdict, saying that the short musical phrase or "ostinato" that Katy had been accused of stealing from the rapper Flame was not deemed original enough to necessitate copyright protection.
Previously in July 2019, a jury had ruled that Katy's 2013 smash hit 'Dark Horse' had illegally sampled an eight-note ostinato that was originally present in 'Joyful Noise', a relatively unheard-of song (at the time) by Christian rapper Flame aka Marcus Gray.
Flame, along with co-writers on the song, Emanuel Lambert and Chike Ojukwu, said that Katy and her producers were guilty of taking the hook from 'Joyful Noise' and incorporating it into her 'Dark Horse' track.
Katy's lead defense attorney, Christine Lepera, argued at the 2019 trial that such a basic sequence of notes couldn't be protected by copyright, claiming that Flame was "trying to own the basic building blocks of music".
However, the jury in the case could not be swayed, and found Katy, co-writer Sarah Hudson, Capitol Records and producers Dr Luke, Max Martin and Cirkut culpable of copyright infringement for 'Dark Horse'. According to the ruling in the legal case, Flame and his team were awarded $2.8 million in damages last year.
However, that ruling has now been overturned, after Judge Snyder ruled that the jury's verdict was not supported by the overwhelming evidence in Katy's favor regarding the so-called copyright infringement.
"It is undisputed in this case," Snyder said, "that the signature elements of the 8-note ostinato in 'Joyful Noise'... is not a particularly unique or rare combination."
Snyder said that she leaned on the testimony of musicologist Todd Decker, an expert witness in the case, in order to overturn the previous ruling from July 2019.
"A relatively common 8-note combination of unprotected elements that happens to be played in a timbre common to a particular genre of music cannot be so original as to warrant copyright protection," she stated.
Katy's lawyer promptly praised the judge's intervention, saying, "In a well reasoned and methodical decision, the court properly vacated the jury verdict, finding that 'Dark Horse' does not infringe 'Joyful Noise', as a matter of law," said Christine Lepera in a statement.
"This an important victory for music creators and the music industry, recognizing that music building blocks cannot be monopolized. The creators of 'Dark Horse' stand vindicated."