On ‘Dark Horse’ Plagiarism Case, a Professional Musicologist Testifies Against Katy Perry and UMG

On 'Dark Horse' Plagiarism Case, Professional Musicologist Testifies Against Katy Perry and UMG

Did Katy Perry and her musical team knowingly steal a Christian rapper’s song to create ‘Dark Horse?’

Update (July 29th): A California jury has now ruled that Katy Perry is guilty of copyright infringement on “Dark Horse” — full details here.

According to Perry, no.  Of course not.

Yet, according to rapper Marcus Gray and renowned musicologist and professor Todd Decker, yes.  Yes, she did.

On Friday, Decker, a professional musician as well, took the stand in the closely-watched plagiarism trial.

Decker said he’s dedicated his career to studying ‘musical borrowing’ – especially rhythm, melody, notes, and the overall combination of elements in a musical phrase.  Decker then suggested Perry outright stole Gray’s ‘Joyful Noise’ on ‘Dark Horse.’

The most important tool is listening.

The music professor came to this conclusion after listening to Gray’s 2008 song and Perry’s 2013 track “countless times.”

The case first started in July 2014, when Gray, Emmanuel Lambert, Chike Ojukwu, and Lecrae Moore sued Perry.  Filed at a Missouri federal court, they accused the singer, Universal Music’s Capitol Records, and the ‘Dark Horse’ writers of knowingly infringing on ‘Joyful Noise.’  The case was eventually moved to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

On the stand, Decker reportedly sang the pitch of each song.  He told the jury both songs’ eight-note ‘ostinato’ share “five or six points of similarity.”  This includes the pitch, rhythm, texture, patterns of repetition, melodic shape, and timbre.

Decker added the “descending melodies” remain unique.

“I have not seen another piece that descends in the way these two do.”

He explained that Gray wrote the ‘Joyful Noise’ in the key of A.  Perry’s team, meanwhile, wrote ‘Dark Horse’ in B-flat, only a half-step difference.

Audibly, it’s not very different.

Defending herself on the stand, Perry said she serves as a “messenger of authenticity.”  She has also never heard of Gray’s song.

We take seriously the art and craft of songwriting.

Lambasting Decker’s damning testimony, Perry’s attorneys argued that since Chike Ojukwu created the beat of ‘Joyful Noise,’ Gray has no legitimate copyright claim in the case.  They also called on New York University professor Lawrence Ferrara.  He explained the ‘similarities’ between two different Christmas songs – ‘Jolly Old St. Nicholas’ and ‘Merrily We Roll Along.’

Last August, U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder denied Perry and Capitol Records’ request motion for summary judgment.

You can view the original lawsuit below.

 


Featured image by Katy Perry (YouTube screengrab).

3 Responses

  1. Avatar
    Klaus G

    ‘Musicologist’ – really??? What a word. And another clueless person, explaining things which are wrong from the start. Perry’s team is a magnet for wannabes who want attention and publicity.

  2. Avatar
    lucas schloming

    katy perry ha porch that was eilonwy achren sindel varda hera athena aphrodite nessa now that was the first time they really saw me so they are god me to walrus there is parrot fish the toniane bongiovanni parrot fish and walrus i control the weather as well they were willing me too strong it is kiss it better do what you got to do on on sidewalk each after the other period so up nursing later then right away to then ha porch glad, glad about nursing as well, straightawaya the match meant and they were about to walk down then tonianne bongiovanni parrot fish so later she said friday ina shucks tone of voice madeline shaid friday that is damp lips to now ma and lisa sun, noelle looking like me from photo’s however so try that again lisa sun looked at me in high school and, missed by an atoms weight speical effects fishy nasa ears should look identical but in the photo if anything one could say I was slightly more beautiful, and they saw me with nasa, should look as good the ears they are my mommies which is why them first, sex with them firs walruses look like jakc schaugnessy and their eyes look like jinn, the people around the den know them to be god,that is true probably the tonianne bongiovanni parrot fish and the morphed grond blue eel fish, with me the walrus and the parrot, unless we both had a contribution to each