Chart-topping pop star Katy Perry has been found guilty of copying a Christian rap song.
On Monday, a jury found that Perry’s 2013 hit “Dark Horse” had poached the beat from a 2009 faith-based song performed by Marcus Gray, or “Flame,” called “Joyful Noise.”
The jury took two full days of deliberation to reach their verdict, finding all six songwriters and all four corporations involved in releasing and distributing the songs guilty of copyright infringement.
Gray’s attorneys argued that the beat structure and notes used in the opening segment of “Joyful Noise” were almost identical to the baseline track used by Perry.
“Defendants never sought or obtained permission from plaintiffs to use the ‘Joyful Noise’ song in creating, reproducing, recording, distributing, selling, or publicly performing defendants’ song,” read Flame’s complaint.
“Plaintiffs never gave any of the defendants’ permission, consent, or a license to use ‘Joyful Noise’ for any purpose, including creation of a derivative work based on ‘Joyful Noise.'”
Earlier in the trial, musicologist Todd Decker identified “five or six points of similarity” between the two tracks.
“Dark Horse” enjoyed four weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, with Perry performing the hit during the 2015 Super Bowl halftime show.
According to the Associated Press, in their closing arguments, Perry’s lawyers argued that the Christian songwriters were “trying to own basic building blocks of music,” and that “the alphabet of music that should be available to everyone.”
The six-person jury, however, disagreed, despite Perry’s pleas that neither she nor the other songwriters had ever heard “Joyful Noise” and did not listen to Christian music.
But it made no difference. Once Gray’s lawyers had both established the copyright claim and demonstrated that the song had been widely disseminated (meaning that Perry or her colleagues could have heard it), the case was all but won.
“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 his closing arguments — he also noted that Perry had launched her career as a Christian artist, which may have presented her with greater opportunity to hear the song.
Despite it being a serious legal case, laughter erupted in the courtroom when Perry’s lawyers encountered technical difficulties when trying to play “Dark Horse” to the jury.
“I could perform it live,” Perry interjected, before the track finally came on.
Following the verdict, the case will now go to the penalty phase, during which the jury will decide how much Perry and her co-defendants will be ordered to pay Gray and his fellow songwriters for the copyright infringement.
Have a listen to both songs below and judge for yourself!