They concluded that the beat of the Christian song was original enough to be copyrighted.
The verdict came five years after the Christian rapper Marcus Gray, also known as Flame, and two co-writers filed a lawsuit against the pop star. Gray alleged Perry stole the beat and instrumental line from his song “Joyful Noise” to create “Dark Horse.” The main focus of the copyright infringement case was about the beat, not the lyrics.
Gray’s attorneys claimed it was possible for the defendants to have heard the song and presented evidence that it had millions of plays on YouTube and Spotify. Gray’s album, which included the song “Joyful Noise,” was nominated for a Grammy.
“They’re trying to shove Mr. Gray into some gospel music alleyway that no one ever visits,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Michael A. Kahn, during closing arguments.
Perry’s legal team argued that the song contains simple musical elements that should be available for everyone to use. “They’re trying to own basic building blocks of music, the alphabet of music that should be available to everyone,” attorney Christine Lepera said during closing arguments Thursday.
In their final verdict, the jurors found all six songwriters and all four corporations that released and distributed the songs were liable. The songwriters include Perry and Sarah Hudson, who only worked on the lyrics, along with Juicy J, who only penned his guest verse. Other defendants found liable were Capitol Records as well as Perry’s producers: Dr. Luke, Max Martin and Cirkut, who came up with the song’s beat.
The case will now go on to a penalty phase, where the jury will determine how much is owed for copyright infringement from Perry and the other defendants.