Katy Perry has provided us with timeless hits over the years. Some of her memorable songs include the likes of Dark Horse. Now she has won the copyright appeal made on the song and no longer has to pay the amount.
The rapper Flame claimed that her single plagiarized an eight-note ostinato from his 2009 song Joyful Noise. Gray sued Perry and co-defendants including Capitol Records in 2016. They were initially awarded $2.8 million in a jury verdict three years later.
Perry later appealed and a federal district court judge vacated the verdict in March 2020. The Guardian reports that a judge from the ninth circuit court of appeals has now ruled that Gray was attempting to claim an “improper monopoly” over conventional “musical building blocks”. The judge ruled that to allow copyright over this material would limit musical creativity.
“To allowing an improper monopoly over two-note pitch sequences or even the minor scale itself, especially in light of the limited number of expressive choices available when it comes to an eight-note repeated musical figure”
Gray appealed the decision in October 2020, writing in a brief about the incriminating similarity of timbre between the songs. He argued 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. The ruling in Perry’s favor comes amid a renewed flush of A-list musicians facing copyright lawsuits. Ed Sheeran and Dua Lipa are also facing copyrighting claims on their most famous songs.
Copyright infringement cases in music are a very delicate issue. Finding what’s deliberately plagiarized and what is just a common musical expression can be tough sometimes. Perry winning in this instance would give her fellow artists more strength in their own cases.
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