The lawsuit claiming that Katy Perry stole some ideas on her 2013 hit 'Dark Horse' has finally reached its end.
Katy Perry won’t have to pay $2.8 million to a rapper who claimed that she stole parts of her hit song Dark Horse from him. Marcus Gray, known professionally as Flame, alleged that Perry stole an eight-note riff from his Christian rap song Joyful Noise, and a jury agreed. Now, an appeals court has decided that Gray does not deserve damages for copyright infringement.
The lengthy battle began in 2014 when the Christian rapper sued Perry over the eight-note beat. In 2019, a Los Angeles jury agreed and awarded Flame and two other plaintiffs $2.79 million. Perry was left on the hook for $550,000, and her label, Capitol Records, needed to cough up $1.29 million.
In 2020, a judge overturned that verdict saying that Perry did not infringe any independently protectable musical elements. Now, an appeals court has agreed with that ruling and says that Flame does not deserve damages for copyright infringement
The court said that the eight-note ostinato in Dark Horse involved "entirely of commonplace musical elements" that lacked the "quantum of originality" needed for copyright protection.
"The trial record compels us to conclude that the ostinatos at issue here consist entirely of commonplace musical elements, and that the similarities between them do not arise out of an original combination of these elements," the new ruling reads.
"Allowing a copyright over this material would essentially amount to allowing an improper monopoly over two-note pitch sequences or even the minor scale itself, especially in light of the limited number of expressive choices available when it comes to an eight-note repeated musical figure."
The ruling brings an end to the eight-year legal battle, barring an improbably trip to the Supreme Court.
Michael Kahn, a lawyer for Flame and 2 other plaintiffs, has said they are considering their legal options moving forward.
He said not granting the song Joyful Noise protection “runs contrary to a series of simple and clearly distinctive eight-note opening melodies” as in Dave Brubeck’s Take Five, the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction, and Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
Fellow pop superstar Ed Sheeran is facing a similar lawsuit and has been accused of "boring" ideas for his huge hit Shape Of You.
For what it’s worth, the $550,000 Perry would have had to cough up is a mere drop in the bucket for the singer, who has a fortune valued at roughly $330 million.