Local Christian rapper wins copyright case against Katy Perry

ST. LOUIS – It might be a dark day for “Dark Horse” but a delightful one for “Joyful Noise.” A federal jury has found Katy Perry and her collaborators liable for copyright infringement.

“If I think someone’s infringing—first they stole and then they copied something—I get to control who copies,” said Yvette Liebesman, SLU Professor of Law.

Liebesman has been following Monday’s decision in Los Angeles. A six-person jury determined Perry’s 2013 hit “Dark Horse” had substantive similarities to St. Louis Christian rapper Marcus Gray’s song “Joyful Noise.”

Gray, who goes by the name Flame, filed the civil suit in 2014.

“Katy Perry, Juicy J, can all say, ‘We never heard the song,’” Liebesman said. “What do the plaintiffs come back with: ‘It was on the radio?’ They had access. It was on YouTube and MySpace. That’s what they proved: access and substantial similarity.”

The punitive damages phase of the trial is next, where a jury decides what to do with the similar beats.

“They may decide moving forward you have to add the plaintiff’s name (Marcus Gray) to the label as an author,” Liebesman said.

For those who think they’ve heard this music copyright claim before involving a St. Louis musician, you’d be correct.

“Chuck Berry wrote ‘Sweet Little 16’ and years later the Beach Boys record ‘Surfing USA,’” Liebesman said. “(Berry) sues them for infringement and he wins. And he gets royalties because he’s an author. Later pressings of the album list him as an author.”

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