Musicologists coming to the rescue of Katy Perry in the “Dark Horse” case

There are so many dumb and unjustified musical plagiarism claims winding their way through US courts. One of the worst is the attack on Katy Perry for allegedly copying “Joyful Noise,” a 2014 track by rapper Flame, for her song “Dark Horse.”

The first thing you need to know is that juries are not played recordings of the two songs in question and then asked if they think they sound the same. Under copyright rules, the only evidence that can be submitted is the musical transcription–the sheet music–which shows the actual notes being played in standard musical notation.

However, juries rarely feature people with any kind of training in musical theory. In fact, the prosecution will seek to weed out those kinds of people. They instead prefer to baffle non-musicians with bullshit.

This, in my opinion, is what happened in the “Dark Horse” trail and why Perry was ordered to pay out US$2.8 million as a copyright infringement penalty.

Now there’s a push to reopen the case. A group of 15 musicologists (including one from McGill’s Shulich School of Music) have filed a brief saying that the court erred in its original ruling.

What’s interesting is that this group came together organically. They were so disturbed by the ruling that they got together on their own to file this brief.

Naturally, Flame’s legal team is pushing back. In fact, they’re pushing for the penalty even higher.

We need to keep watch on cases like these. The future of new music depends on the outcomes.

(Via Digital Music News)

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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