Katy Perry Wins Appeal In ‘Dark Horse’ Plagiarism Case Worth $2.8 Million

The singer successfully overturned a 2019 verdict on the song.

Katy Perry performing in Bright, Australia in March 2020.
Daniel Pockett / Getty Images

The singer successfully overturned a 2019 verdict on the song.

Katy Perry has emerged victorious in court. The singer won an appeal in her ongoing lawsuit regarding “Dark Horse,” a song she released in 2013. This week, a judge overruled a 2019 jury decision that found that Perry was guilty of copyright infringement on the song, according to Entertainment Tonight.

Perry was originally found guilty because of an eight-note musical phrase from the track that the jury determined was from the 2009 song “Joyful Noise” by Christian rapper Flame. The ruling was overturned after an appeal was filed by Perry, Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald and Capitol Records. The $2.8 million settlement that had been awarded to Flame as a result of the lawsuit was also wiped out with the new verdict.

In the appeal, California Federal Judge Christina A. Snyder ruled that the jury’s verdict was not based on the evidence in the case.

“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,” Snyder wrote in her verdict.

Should he choose to, Flame will be able to appeal the ruling to the 9th Circuit Court.

“Dark Horse” was written by Perry, Gottwald, Max Martin, Jordan Houston, Sarah Theresa Hudson, and Henry Walter and appears on her album Prism. Flame, whose real name is Marcus Gray, originally filed the lawsuit in 2013, claiming that the central eight-note beat in “Dark Horse” is taken from his “Joyful Noise.” Perry’s defense team argued that the beat in question was not unique to Flame’s song.

Perry, Gottwald, and the rest of the songwriting team testified that they had never heard of “Joyful Noise” or of Flame prior to the trial. They also said they did not listen to Christian music. Gray’s attorneys countered by suggesting that the song was streamed and viewed millions of times and was also nominated for a Grammy, meaning someone on the songwriting team could easily have heard it.

“There is no infringement. There was no access or substantial similarity. The only thing in common is unprotectable expression — evenly spaced ‘C’ and ‘B’ notes — repeated. People including musicologists from all over are expressing their dismay over this. We will continue to fight at all appropriate levels to rectify the injustice,” attorney Christine Lepera said in a statement to Entertainment Tonight in 2019.

Perry and her collaborators were ordered to pay the $2.8 million in August 2019. The singer was personally ordered to pay $550,000, with Capitol Records shouldering the majority of the payment.