Katy Perry Hit with $2.78 Million in Damages for Copying Song

Katy Perry will be forking out a hefty amount of cash for damages. A Los Angeles jury has ordered that Perry and her collaborators, as well as her record label, pay $2.78 million in damages. This comes after the court found that the star’s 2013 smash hit Dark Horse, copied a Christian rap song. Perry will be handing over $550,000 of her own money in damages. Capitol Records will be paying the majority of the awarded sum to Marcus Gray and his co-writers for the 2009 song Joyful Noise.

‘Dark Horse’ was a hit song for Katy Perry

Katy Perry
Katy Perry | Gotham/GC Images

The song earned Perry major recognition, as the track hit the Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for four weeks and gave Perry a Grammy nomination. Gray’s attorney claimed that the song earned Perry millions of dollars, while at the same time, Perry’s attorneys said the song cost millions of dollars to create and then market it to a mass audience. The nine-member federal jury delivered the jaw-dropping decision after years of courtroom battles. Gray, known as Flame, and his co-authors sued saying the song was stolen.

Perry and others testified they had never heard of the song before

Perry testified along with the song’s co-authors, which include producer Dr. Luke (Lukasz Gottwald), that none of them had ever heard of the song or Gray himself before the lawsuit. Attorneys for Perry said the elements in the song are the foundations of music and that a decision such as this would have very negative consequences and set a dangerous precedent against artists.

“They’re trying to own basic building blocks of music, the alphabet of music that should be available to everyone,” said Perry’s lawyer, Christine Lepera. Many people feel the songs are very different and featured very different elements. An appeal judge said the decision “strikes a devastating blow to future musicians and composers everywhere.”

Perry’s attorneys issued a statement

Katy Perry
Katy Perry | Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Perry’s lawyer issued a statement on behalf of the writers on the song, including Perry, Dr. Luke, Cirkut (Henry Walter), Max Martin (Karl Sandberg), Juicy J (Jordan Houston), and Sarah Hudson.

“The writers of Dark Horse view the verdicts as a travesty of justice,” the statement says. “There is no infringement. There was no access of substantial similarity. The only thing in common is unprotectable expression — evenly spaced “C and “B” notes — repeated. People including musicologists from all over are expressing their dismay over this. We will continue to fight at all appropriate levels to rectify the injustice.”

Perry’s lawyers still have a motion pending

Jurors were told that Dark Horse earned about $41 million in total. Perry took in over $3 million herself. The bulk of the revenue went to Capitol Records. The label says the expenses it racked up creating the hit make the amount only a fraction of that.

Perry’s lawyers still have a pending motion asking U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder to rule that a reasonable jury couldn’t find copyright infringement based on such evidence that was shown at the trial. If the judge sides with the lawyer, then the damages award is moot.