Katy Perry’s ‘Dark Horse’ copyright case is “inhibiting the work of songwriters” says musicologists

Experts claim the jury in the copyright case found wrongly in the plaintiffs favour

Musicologists have come to the aid of Katy Perry in her ‘Dark Horse’ copyright case.

Last year, Perry and her ‘Dark Horse’ collaborators were ordered to pay Christian rapper Flame (real name Marcus Gray) more than £2 million in damages after it was ruled that they plagiarised his song ‘Joyful Noise’.

Now, the singer’s defence team has enlisted a group of 15 musicologists, collectively known as Amicus Curiae, to help argue for a new ruling as a matter of law, or a new trial altogether, Billboard reports.


The case will be re-examined by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

“Amici have a strong interest in Courts correcting obvious errors in juries’ understanding of evidence relating to extrinsic similarity,” a brief, officially entered by lawyers for Amicus Curiae Musicologists on January 9th, warns.

It continues: “If Courts do not overturn verdicts, like that in question here – improperly tainted by the jury’s application of the subsequent ‘intrinsic test’ – there will be expanding precedent of grossly inequitable determinations of infringement that will ultimately compromise the robust public domain that has fostered unparalleled creativity and innovation by American popular composers.”

Elsewhere in the brief, it focuses on the dangers that can result from rulings like Perry’s in the music industry.

“If the Court were to allow this verdict to stand, it will only worsen the rampant confusion and uncertainty about the application of current copyright jurisprudence to musical works,” it reads. “This confusion and uncertainty, in turn, is inhibiting the work of songwriters and the American music industry at large, whose vigorous output of innovative expression has always depended upon access to, and unchecked use of, generic musical conventions and ideas.”


The musicologists who comprise the brief hail from McGill University’s Schulich School of Music, University of Southern California, Indiana University, Butler University School of Music, UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music, University of Hamburg, Berklee College of Music, Millikin University, University of London, University at Albany – SUNY, Manhattan School of Music, Keio University SFC, Stanford University, Hunter College, and Case Western Reserve University.

Katy Perry performs live. CREDIT: Getty

Speaking to Digital Music News, Kenneth Freundlich, who represents the musicologists, elaborated on their stance and how they came to be.

“The musicology community as represented by my subgroup, is as you can imagine, not happy with cases which denigrate the definition of music and make unprotectable elements (themselves or in combination) the subject of broad copyright protection,” he said.

He added: “The group self-formed by word of mouth amongst the musicology community.”

Flame’s legal team have responded to the brief submitted by the 15 musicologists.

“While the [musicologists] present themselves as ‘friends of the Court,’ the more accurate term is ‘friends of the Defendants.’ Neither the [musicologists] nor their proposed brief — which is deficient or improper in several respects — meets the legal standard required to appear as an amicus,” said Michael Kahn of Capes Sokol.

He continued: “Moreover, their brief relies, in part, upon inadmissible evidence outside the record in this case, which is both highly prejudicial to Plaintiffs and improperly considered under the legal standards for post-trial motions.”

Meanwhile, Katy Perry has opened up about her mental health and how unwell she was around the time of her last album ‘Witness’ in 2017 and 2018.

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