Adult Contemporary

Katy Perry wins appeal in “Dark Horse” copyright suit

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ABC/Gavin Bond

A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled in Katy Perry‘s favor, refusing to reinstate a $2.8 million copyright infringement verdict against her over the 2014 hit “Dark Horse,” according to Billboard.

Rapper Marcus Gray — whose stage name is Flame — sued Perry in 2014, claiming his song “Joyful Noise” was illegally sampled. In 2019, a jury found sufficient proof in his arguments to hand him a win, but the verdict was later overturned by a judge who ruled that the so-called ‘ostinato’ — a repeating musical phrase — in “Dark Horse” that was crucial to Gray’s case was essentially too common to be copyrighted.

Gray appealed the decision in October 2020, citing other elements of his and Perry’s songs that he alleged were similar and taking issue with how musical experts consulted in overturning the trial verdict had arrived at their opinions. But on Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously affirmed the lower court’s decision to overturn the jury verdict.

“The portion of the ‘Joyful Noise’ ostinato that overlaps with the ‘Dark Horse’ ostinato consists of a manifestly conventional arrangement of musical building blocks,” the appeals court wrote. “Allowing a copyright over this material would essentially amount to allowing an improper monopoly over two-note pitch sequences or even the minor scale itself.”

“Dark Horse” spent 57 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, including four weeks at #1.

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