The ruling that Katy Perry was a ‘Dark Horse’
You may have seen in the news that Katy Perry has suffered a major hit; being deemed to have infringed the copyright belonging to Christian rap artist ‘Flame’ for 6 notes in his track ‘Joyful Noise’, produced in 2009. Flame sought millions in damages and an injunction halting distribution of ‘Dark Horse’. Flame sought such a lucrative pay off as ‘Dark Horse’ has been viewed 2.6 billion times on YouTube since 2013 and has reportedly been streamed over 1.89 billion times. The federal Court in the USA have now determined that Katy Perry and other writers involved in the track ‘Dark Horse’ will have to pay damages of nearly $3,000,000.00.
The controversy in this decision stems from the apparent basic beat which Flame claimed Katy Perry copied. Katy Perry’s attorneys argued that this beat constitutes the basic building blocks of music, but obviously, the jury did not agree.
The USA’s law of copyright is different to the law within the UK, including being heard before a jury. In the UK, civil matters such as this are not heard before a jury. However, it is a warning card to future artists and songwriters in the UK, by demonstrating just how easily a song can be considered substantially the same. In the UK, whether copyright is infringed depends upon whether a person copies, publishes, performs or shows in public or adapts the work (s.16 CDPA 1988). Once you have established that somebody has done this with your work, the question is then how much of the work has been copied by that person and whether this is a ‘substantial part’. The USA has a similar provision and, as Katy Perry has learned, even a seemingly small part of the work, a ‘building block’, can be considered a substantial part for the purposes of copyright infringement. The warning from this case is clear, and cases like this are becoming ever more popular, with artists in the UK such as Ed Sheeran also being involved in copyright infringement disputes. With the music market becoming ever saturated and creative endeavours continuing at a rate of knots, these types of action will only continue to increase. While these particular actions are on the largest scale, copyright can potentially exist in any literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works. Where copyright exists, it can of course be infringed. The need to protect intellectual property is ever present, and potentially lucrative.
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