Attorneys for Katy Perry, Dr. Luke, Max Martin, and Capitol Records are officially appealing the $2.78 million copyright infringement ruling on “Dark Horse”.
If only this was the most shocking copyright infringement decision the music industry has witnessed over the past few years.
Though not quite the earth-shattering, industry-altering decision handed down in the Marvin Gaye “ case of 2018, the $2.78 million award handed to obscure Christian rapper Flume against Katy Perry still gave plenty of onlookers some pause. Flume claimed that Katy Perry, Dr. Luke, Max Martin, and other collaborators flat-out copied his track, “Joyful Noise,” release a few years prior to “Dark Horse”.
A side-by-side comparison of the two tracks reveals a lot of surface similarities. But a deeper look by anyone familiar with music composition reveals stark differences. And both rely on a very simple melodic sequence and rather basic musical building blocks (for a full, in-depth comparison and analysis of the two tracks, take a listen to this ).
One big problem is that the U.S. legal system often relies on ill-informed juries, who lack any substantive knowledge of music theory or composition. Accordingly, John and Jane Q. Public are quick to hand millions of dollars to plaintiffs for ‘infringing’ songs that share basic musical building blocks, chord structures, or rhythmic elements.
Now, team Perry is hoping to reverse the damage.
In appeals filing this week, attorneys for Perry called the Flume ruling a “grave miscarriage of justice,” while pointing to “erroneous verdicts” that would create “serious harm to music creators and to the music industry as a whole”.
Part of the appeal will focus on whether anyone knew that “Joyful Noise” existed. In its case, rapper Flume pointed to a Grammy nomination, and noted that Katy Perry had seen a snippet of the song being played. Sounds pretty damning, though Perry’s attorneys are claiming this song was a “drop in the bucket”.
The key is proving that Perry was likely unaware of the track, and had little exposure. “Plaintiffs did not offer proof of one single digital or brick-and-mortar sale of ‘Joyful Noise’ or (the album) ‘Our World Redeemed‘ and admitted that they have no such evidence,” the appeal blasts.
“No reasonable fact finder could have concluded that ‘Joyful Noise’ was so well-known that it could be reasonably inferred that Defendants heard it, particularly in this digital age of content overload, with billions of videos and songs available to users with trillions of streams,” the filing continues. “The few million views of ‘Joyful Noise’ on the Internet presented by Plaintiffs, over a period of five years, equals an undisputed ‘drop in the bucket’ in modern day view count statistics — and can hardly constitute widespread dissemination.”
The blowback is coming from more than just Perry, Capitol, Dr. Luke and Max Martin. Others saddled with a piece of the $2.78 million are Warner Bros. Music Corporation, Kobalt Publishing, Kasz Money, Cirkut, Sarah Hudson and Juicy J.