The Katy Perry “Dark Horse” vs FLAME “Joyful Noise” lawsuit has finally come to a conclusion after nearly a decade in courts. Almost one year ago to the day, FLAME’s victory and settlement were overturned, and now that decision sticks.
According to Rolling Stone, the courts decided the 2.8 million originally won y FLAME and his team was “unsupported.”
A further explanation of their ruling is below:
“The trial record compels us to conclude that the ostinatos at issue here consist entirely of commonplace musical elements, and that the similarities between them do not arise out of an original combination of these elements. Consequently, the jury’s verdict finding defendants liable for copyright infringement was unsupported by the evidence,” the new ruling reads.
“Allowing a copyright over this material would essentially amount to allowing an improper monopoly over two-note pitch sequences or even the minor scale itself, especially in light of the limited number of expressive choices available when it comes to an eight-note repeated musical figure,” the court says.
From the Katy Perry overturned appeal last year:
The case was seen as extremely controversial by many musicologists and industry professionals with most siding with Perry and Capitol Records. The argument was that there was nothing “protectable” about FLAME’s instrumental in “Joyful Noise.” That is why when it was announced that he won 2.8 million in the settlement from Perry, Dr. Luke, and Capitol, it left people stunned and set a new precedent in the music industry.
Perry and her legal team filed an appeal, and as of today, the case has been overturned in favor of “Dark Horse” being an original work.
Below you can find some of the quotes from the case:
“It is undisputed in this case, even viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, that the signature elements of the 8-note ostinato in ‘Joyful Noise’… is not a particularly unique or rare combination, even in its deployment as an ostinato: prior compositions, including prior works composed by the parties, as well as what all agree is a separate non-infringing ostinato in ‘Dark Horse,’ all contain similar elements,” states the judge Christina Synder (read here).
“Because the sole musical phrase that plaintiffs claim infringement upon is not protectable expression, the extrinsic test is not satisfied, and plaintiffs’ infringement claim — even with the evidence construed in plaintiffs’ favor — fails as a matter of law,” she continued.
“In a well reasoned and methodical decision, the court properly vacated the jury verdict, finding that Dark Horse does not infringe Joyful Noise, as a matter of law. This an important victory for music creators and the music industry, recognizing that music building blocks cannot be monopolized. The creators of Dark Horse stand vindicated,” said Perry’s attorney Christine Lepera in a statement, according to Billboard.
See the court documents here.
A look back at when FLAME initially won:
According to Billboard, the song’s collaborators Lukasz Gottwald (Dr. Luke), Karl Martin Sandberg (Max Martin), Henry Walter (Cirkut), Sarah Hudson, and Jordan Michael Houston (Juicy J), Capitol Records, Warner Bros. Music Corporation, Kobalt Publishing, and Kasz Money Inc are all liable.
It took seven days for the jury to deliberate and come to their decision. FLAME and his team argued that the song was popular enough for Perry and company to have heard it despite their denial. They also had a musicologist breakdown the beat and explain the similarities. Perry’s defense team brought in their own expert who refuted these claims. Another tactic of the plaintiff was using Perry’s former background as a Christian singer as well as having pastors for parents as a reason she would have heard the song.
Here’s a refresher of the whole case and some of the timeline:
In 2009 FLAME released a song called “Joyful Noise” featuring Lecrae. In 2013 Katy Perry dropped her smash single “Dark Horse” featuring Juicy J.
FLAME and his team alleged that their song was ripped off by Perry and co-creator, Dr. Luke. The songs have very similar and at points identical sounding beats.
“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,” the complaint states. “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.'”
Read more about the initial complaint in our 2014 article here.