Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” lawsuit gets kicked up a notch

If you’ve been following all the nonsensical copyright infringement/plagiarism lawsuits in the music industry (cf. “Blurred Lines,” “Stairway to Heaven,” et al), you’ll know that Katy Perry has been targeted by a rapper who says she ripped off his song “Joyful Noise” for her song, “Dark Horse.”

The rapper, Flame (real name: Marcus Gray), contends that there’s an eight-note keyboard figure in “Dark Horse” that was lifted directly from his 20084 track. Never mind that they’re not the same notes. It’s another note played in a similar way. You can hear the disparity in this mashup.

And let’s for a moment forget that the Art of Noise released his in 1985.

Back to the lawsuit. Gray convinced a California jury that plagiarism did occur and won a judgment of US$2.8 million. But then the judge overturned the decision, saying that Gray’s team failed on matters of law. Those eight notes just aren’t enough to enjoy copyright protection.

Now, though, Gray has filed an appeal saying “The district court erroneously asserted that ‘a pitch sequence … is not entitled to copyright protection’. Perhaps the district court didn’t understand that a pitch sequence is the technical term for a sequence of musical notes, ie a melody. Copyright most definitely protects original melodies, and especially distinctive eight-note melodies that repeat throughout a song.”

Katy’s people will respond next month. More at CMU.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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