Attorneys for Katy Perry, Dr. Luke, Max Martin, and Capitol Records are ficially appealing the $2.78 million copyright infringement ruling on “Dark Horse”.
If only this was the most shocking copyright infringement decision the music industry has witnessed over the past few years.
Though not quite the earth-shattering, industry-altering decision handed down in the Marvin Gaye “Blurred Lines” case 2015, the $2.78 million award handed to obscure Christian rapper Flame against Katy Perry still gave plenty onlookers some pause. Flame (whose real name is Marcus Gray) claimed that Katy Perry, Dr. Luke, Max Martin, and other collaborators flat-out copied his track, “Joyful Noise,” release a few years before “Dark Horse”.
A side-by-side comparison the two tracks reveals some surface similarities. But a deeper look by anyone familiar with music composition reveals stark differences. And both rely on a very simple melodic sequence and rather basic musical building blocks (for a full, in-depth comparison and analysis the two tracks, take a listen to this recent Digital Music News podcast episode with music industry attorney Ed McPherson).
One big problem is that the U.S. legal system ten relies on ill-informed juries, who lack any substantive knowledge music theory or composition. Accordingly, John and Jane Q. Public are quick to hand millions dollars to plaintiffs for ‘infringing’ songs that share basic chord structures, melodic hooks, or rhythmic elements.
Now, team Perry is hoping to reverse the damage.
In appeals filing this week, attorneys for Perry called the Flame ruling a “grave miscarriage justice,” while pointing to “erroneous verdicts” that would create “serious harm to music creators and to the music industry as a whole”.
Perhaps the damage is already done, with untold copyright infringement lawsuits currently in the works — if not already filed.
Part the appeal will focus on whether anyone knew that “Joyful Noise” even existed. In its original case, rapper Flame pointed to a Grammy nomination and noted that Katy Perry had seen a snippet the song being played. Sounds pretty damning, though Perry’s attorneys are claiming this song was a “drop in the bucket”.
The key is proving that Perry was unaware the track, and had little exposure. “Plaintiffs did not fer pro one single digital or brick-and-mortar sale ‘Joyful Noise’ or (the album) ‘Our World Redeemed‘ and admitted that they have no such evidence,” the appeal blasts.
“No reasonable factfinder could have concluded that ‘Joyful Noise’ was so well-known that it could be reasonably inferred that Defendants heard it, particularly in this digital age content overload, with billions videos and songs available to users with trillions streams,” the filing continues. “The few million views ‘Joyful Noise’ on the Internet presented by Plaintiffs, over a period five years, equals an undisputed ‘drop in the bucket’ in modern-day view count statistics — and can hardly constitute widespread dissemination.”
The blowback is coming from more than just Perry, Capitol, Dr. Luke and Max Martin. Others saddled with a piece the $2.78 million bill are Warner Bros. Music Corporation, Kobalt Publishing, Kasz Money, Cirkut, Sarah Hudson and Juicy J.