Jury rules Katy Perry, Capitol Records must pay $2.78M because hit 'Dark Horse' copied song

LOS ANGELES -- A jury has found that Katy Perry, her collaborators and her record label must pay $2.78 million because the pop star's 2013 hit "Dark Horse" copied a Christian rap song.

The Los Angeles federal jury awarded the money Thursday to Marcus Gray and his two co-writers on the 2009 song "Joyful Noise."

Perry herself was hit for just over $550,000, with Capitol Records responsible for the vast majority of the money.

It was an underdog victory for Gray, a relatively obscure artist once known as Flame. His 5-year-old lawsuit survived constant court challenges and a trial against top-flight attorneys for Perry and the five other music-industry heavyweights who wrote the song.

Jurors had already decided that "Dark Horse" copied "Joyful Noise" and then were tasked with finding how much the defendants owed.

The penalty was announced five years after Gray and two co-authors first sued alleging "Dark Horse" stole from "Joyful Noise."
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 Perry's 2013 album "Prism," spent four weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 in early 2014, and earned Perry a Grammy nomination.

Perry's 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," Perry's lawyer Christine Lepera said during closing arguments Thursday.

Perry and the song's co-authors, including her producer Dr. Luke, 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 Perry and her co-authors, and provide 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, when he also pointed out that Perry had begun her career as a Christian artist.

The 34-year-old pop superstar and "American Idol" judge brought laughs to the proceedings when she testified during its second day, and her lawyers were having technical troubles getting "Dark Horse" to play in the courtroom.

"I could perform it live," Perry said.

No performance was necessary after the audio issues were fixed. Jurors heard both songs played back-to-back in their entirety at the end of closing arguments this week.
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