Christian Rapper Flame Loses Appeal in Copyright Case against Katy Perry

Written by on March 22, 2022

Pop singer Katy Perry recently won a years-long legal battle after being accused of copying a beat from a song by christian rapper Flame.

Perry, who currently serves as a judge on American Idol, released her hit song “Dark Horse” featuring artist Juicy J in 2013. A year later, Flame, whose real name is Marcus Gray, sued Perry for allegedly copying a beat from his 2008 song, “Joyful Noise,” featuring christian rapper Lecrae and musician John Reilly.

Earlier this month, judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit unanimously ruled that Perry did not have to pay $2.8 million in damages. The decision upholds a 2020 district court ruling that overturned a 2019 ruling ordering Perry and her record label, Capitol Records, to pay $2.8 million to Flame for copyright infringement.

According to Christianity Today, Gray’s attorney issued a statement last week expressing disappointment over the court’s decision to reject the “unanimous verdict” from the 2019 trial.

At issue was a repeated pattern of notes called an ostinato. Similar ostinatos can be heard at the beginning of “Joyful Noise” and “Dark Horse.”

“The Ninth Circuit concluded that the two songs’ similar ostinatos result only from the use of commonplace, unoriginal musical principles, and thus could not be the basis for a copyright infringement claim,” Attorneys Eric Ball and Ryan Kwock of Fenwick, a law firm focusing on technology and intellectual property, wrote in a statement addressing the judge’s decision.

“While Katy Perry comes out victorious as non-infringing in this case, the opinion simultaneously signals the weaknesses in the ‘Dark Horse’ song’s copyright itself,” the attorneys added. “If the ostinato in ‘Joyful Noise’ is unprotectable, then the similar elements in the ostinato in ‘Dark Horse’ could be unprotectable, too, thus opening the door to more songs using similar-sounding elements without running the risk of infringement.”

Related:

Katy Perry’s Hit ‘Dark Horse’ Copied christian Rapper’s Song, Jury Finds

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Pascal Le Segretain/Staff


Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.

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