Katy Perry, Capitol Records, Dr. Luke Saddled With $2.78 Million in Copyright Infringement Damages Over ‘Dark Horse’

When you find out you owe $2.7 million.
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When you find out you owe $2.7 million.
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When you find out you owe $2.78 million in ‘coincidental’ copyright infringement damages (photo: Alex Pasare)

After just two days of deliberations, a federal jury in California has ordered damages of $2.78 million against Katy Perry, her label, associated songwriters, and other collaborators on “Dark Horse”. The fine was calculated from a top-line figure of $41 million, with Capitol Records arguing that a large percentage of that revenue was utilized for promotional, marketing, production, and other costs.

The defending party of Katy Perry, Dr. Luke, Max Martin, Cirkut, Sarah Hudson, guest performer/rapper Juicy J, and Capitol Records (UMG) were saddled with the fine. Additionally, the jury ruled that publishing company Kasz Money Inc., Kobalt Music Publishing America Inc. and Warner Bros. Music Corp. would also share in the damages assessment.

The $2.78 million penalty amounts to roughly 6.5% of the initial $41 million ask. Still, that’s little consolation to Perry and the defendants, especially given the controversial nature of the infringement ruling.

The ruling, handed down earlier this week, found substantial, willing infringement involving the 2008 Christian rap song, “Joyful Noise,” as performed by Flame (aka Marcus Gray). The ruling was unanimous, despite testimony from multiple experts and musicologists that called the similarities ‘coincidental’ and involving ‘the basic building blocks of music’.

The case was filed in 2014 by Gray, who claimed that “Dark Horse” copied the beat and instrumental line from his song “Joyful Noise.” Perry and her team initially denied any wrongdoing and argued that Gray’s claims were baseless. However, the jury ultimately disagreed, finding that Perry and her team had intentionally copied elements of Gray’s song without permission.

A quick comparison of the tracks reveals some striking similarities, though it’s entirely unclear if the ‘infringement’ was merely coincidental. The melodic loop shared by both tracks is relatively simple, and the resulting decision is heightening fears of increased music copyright trolling ahead.

In terms of who pays what, Katy Perry was ordered to pay roughly $550,000 of the $2.7 million fine, while Dr. Luke was ordered to pay nearly $61,000. Capitol Records was ordered to pay $1.2 million, while Warner was charged a relatively paltry $29,000.

The remaining fine would be distributed among the other defendants. Perry and her team have yet to release a statement on the ruling, but legal analysts say that the decision could have far-reaching implications for the music industry.

The case has drawn criticism from some quarters, with some arguing that the ruling could stifle creativity and innovation in the music industry. Others have argued that the ruling is a victory for artists and musicians who have been victimized by copyright infringement in the past.

Regardless of one’s views on the matter, it’s clear that the ruling has raised important questions about the role of copyright law in the digital age. As the music industry continues to evolve and adapt to new technologies and business models, it’s likely that we’ll see more cases like this in the future.

For now, though, the focus remains on Katy Perry and the other defendants, who are grappling with the fallout from a costly and controversial ruling.

The 15-page damages decision was entered into the broader Gray et al. v. Perry et al., case number 2:15-cv-05642, deliberated in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

2 Responses

  1. Tom He dricks

    Musicians you too can have a hit as big as the top, always the same, pop stars. Just take 41 million and then… No I’m not kidding. Time to support the music revolution
    From article, The fine was calculated from a top-line figure of $41 million, with Capitol Records arguing that a large percentage of that revenue was utilized for promotional, marketing, production, and other costs.

  2. Tom Hendricks

    So the music industry is fair and open to all? No, not for about a decade at least.
    So do you have a chance for a career in music? No!