A federal appeals court ruled in Katy Perry’s favour in the “Dark Horse” copyright lawsuit against Christian rapper Marcus Gray.
Gray, whose stage name is Flame, first sued Perry in 2014, claiming her hit “Dark Horse” was substantially similar to his song “Joyful Noise.”
In 2019, a Los Angeles jury found Perry liable for infringement, but the verdict was overturned a year later when a judge ruled that the eight-note “ostinato” Perry allegedly copied lacked the “quantum of originality” to warrant copyright protection.
Gray appealed the decision in October 2020, writing in a brief about the incriminating similarity of timbre between the songs, and arguing against the musicologists’ use of databases of melodies to determine instances of similarities in previous works.
On March 10, 2022, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s overturning the initial jury verdict.
Perry’s win in 2020 marked a rare occasion in which a court overturned a jury verdict in a copyright infringement case. That same year, Led Zeppelin defeated plaintiff Michael Skidmore over a factually similar suit over “Stairway to Heaven.”
Since the infamous “Blurred Lines” case — in which the court ruled that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams had infringed upon Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” with their 2013 hit “Blurred Lines” — musical artists have been increasingly wary about taking copyright disputes before a jury, often opting to settle outside of court instead.
Currently, Dua Lipa faces two lawsuits surrounding her global hit “Levitating,” which has spent over a year on the Billboard Hot 100. The plaintiffs are Florida reggae band Artikal Sound System and songwriters L. Russell Brown and Sandy Linzer.
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