Imagine getting $2.7million from one of the most famous person in the world. This is the story of gospel rapper Marcus Gray who won a lawsuit against Katy Perry, prompting the award of $2.7 million in damages. But is it any loss for Katy Perry? We don’t really think so
The jury previously found that Perry’s 2013 hit “Dark Horse,” which spent four weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in early 2014 and was performed at the Super Bowl, copied a 2009 Christian rap song titled “Joyful Noise.”
It was an underdog victory for rapper Marcus Gray, a relatively obscure artist once known as Flame, whose 5-year-old lawsuit survived constant court challenges and a trial against top-flight attorneys for Perry and the five other music-industry heavyweights who wrote her song.
The amount fell well short of the nearly $20 million sought by attorneys for Gray and the two co-writers of “Joyful Noise” — Emanuel Lambert and Chike Ojukwu — but they said they were pleased.
Perry herself was hit for just over $550,000, with Capitol Records responsible for the biggest part of the award — $1.2 million. Defense attorneys had argued for an overall award of about $360,000.
Perry’s attorney, Christine Lepera, said they plan to vigorously fight the decision.
“The writers of Dark Horse consider this a travesty of justice,” Lepera said.
“Dark Horse,” which combines elements of pop, hip-hop and trap styles, was a mega-hit for the Santa Barbara, California-born singer, with its call-and-response chorus of “Are you ready for (ready for), a perfect storm (perfect storm)?”
Gray, a native of St. Louis, sued later in 2014. His song of earnest and ebullient praise stood in stark contrast to the playful black magic evoked by “Dark Horse,” and an early version of the lawsuit faulted Perry’s song for tainting the sanctity of his.
The two-week trial had two phases: One about music, one about money.
Perry took the witness stand on the first day of testimony. She testified, as her co-writers would, that she had never heard of Gray or Flame or “Joyful Noise” until he sued.
The jury heard testimony from musicologists on the disputed section of the two songs — a piece of the musical backing track that plays during the verses of “Dark Horse” and throughout almost all of “Joyful Noise.”
While jurors were told to consider only those sections, they gave a surprisingly sweeping verdict Monday that held all six songwriters responsible for copying “Joyful Noise.” The instrumental track that was most at issue was created by Dr. Luke, Max Martin and Circuit.
During closing arguments earlier Thursday, Gray’s attorneys said that because the relevant riff plays through 45 percent of “Dark Horse,” the plaintiffs should get 45 percent of its earnings, including every album that included it. They put those overall earnings at $41 million, thus seeking nearly $20 million.
The defense argued that only fractions of the album earnings should count for the single song and that considerable promotional expenses paid by Capitol Records should be subtracted.
Gray’s attorneys said those expenses were gratuitous, pointing out to jurors that they included $13,000 for a hairstylist for Perry for one awards show and nearly $2,000 for flashing cocktail ice cubes.
The nine jurors deliberated for two full days to reach their initial verdict but took just a few hours to decide on dollar amounts.
Perry’s five co-writers were each given penalties to pay that ranged from about $60,000 for Dr. Luke to more than $250,000 for Martin.
Nonetheless, it seems like Katy Perry might appeal against the decision of the court. It took over five years to get a judgment on the current case; we are still unsure how long it would take for the appeal. Do you think this should just be settled already? Didn’t the ‘Dark Horse’ song make like 10X more than the awarded sum?