Katy Perry might need to start filling up a new piggy bank: Yesterday, a Los Angeles jury ruled that her 2013 song "Dark Horse" copied "Joyful Noise," a 2008 hit by Christian rapper Flame, meaning the singer will have to pay damages. As Billboard reports (opens in new tab), Katy isn't the only one the court found liable: collaborators Dr. Luke, Max Martin, and writer Sarah Hudson will also have to pay up, as will Juicy J, who features on "Dark Horse." Yikes!
Flame, real name Marcus Gray, sued Katy in 2014, alongside his co-writers Emanuel Lambert and Chike Ojukwu. According to the Guardian, Katy and team said (opens in new tab) they'd never heard "Joyful Noise"—but Flame's lawyers pointed out that the song has millions of hits on YouTube and Spotify. "They’re trying to shove Mr Gray into some gospel music alleyway that no one ever visits," lawyer Michael A Kahn said in court.
On Katy's part, lawyer Christine Lepera said Flame and co-writers were "trying to own basic building blocks of music, the alphabet of music that should be available to everyone." The lawsuit focused in particular on a beat used in the background of "Dark Horse" which Katy's lawyers described as "commonplace (opens in new tab)," according to the BBC. Listen to the opening of "Joyful Noise," alongside "Dark Horse" about 20 seconds in, if you want to compare the tracks for yourself.
The trial was quite the show, the BBC reports (opens in new tab), with Katy showing up to give evidence in person. At one point, the courtroom speakers broke before the jurors could listen to "Dark Horse"—so Katy offered to perform it for them. They weren't swayed by the promise of a free Katy Perry performance, however, ultimately ruling against her.
Today, the court will begin determining exactly how much Katy and co. should pay Flame and co. in damages—and it could be a lot, given the massive success of "Dark Horse." As the Guardian notes, the track was nominated for a Grammy, became Katy's ninth chart-topping single, and has accrued over 2.6 billion views on YouTube. Get filling that piggy bank, Katy!
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Emily Dixon is a British journalist who’s contributed to CNN, Teen Vogue, Time, Glamour, The Guardian, Wonderland, The Big Roundtable, Bust, and more, on everything from mental health to fashion to political activism to feminist zine collectives. She’s also a committed Beyoncé, Kacey Musgraves, and Tracee Ellis Ross fan, an enthusiastic but terrible ballet dancer, and a proud Geordie lass.
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