Attorneys for Katy Perry and her “Dark Horse” collaborators are demanding a retrial in the copyright infringement case that resulted in a $2.78 million judgment against Perry, Lukasz Sebastian Gottwald (Dr. Luke) and others last July.
In the latest volley fired in the ongoing legal battle, defense attorneys characterize the jury’s finding that Perry and her associates lifted a beat from Christian rapper Flame’s (a.k.a. Marcus Gray) 2008 track “Joyful Noise” without permission “a travesty of justice.” They claim the plaintiffs failed to satisfy both extrinsic and intrinsic tests of “substantial similarity” between the two tracks and likewise failed to establish that “Joyful Noise” was widely disseminated enough to prove the “Dark Horse” team had access to it.
“No amount of rhetoric can alter the evidentiary trial record, or how that record should have been measured under the proper burdens of proof and legal standards for access and substantial similarity consistent with the instructions given,” reads the motion, which was filed on Dec. 27 in U.S. District Court in California. “There is only one outcome that comports with the legal standards applied to this trial record: no copyright infringement was proved by Plaintiffs as a matter of law.”
Though a retrial is mentioned as an option, the defense is alternatively asking Judge Christina A. Snyder to throw out the jury’s decision altogether, asserting that jurors failed to follow court instructions when making their decision. “No reasonable jury following those instructions,” they allege, could have decided in the plaintiffs’ favor.
The weighty and complex 45-page court document is a direct response to the plaintiffs’ November opposition filing, which countered the defense’s earlier motion for an appeal. Notably, in recent months Gray’s lawyers have been attempting to tack on interest to the original $2.78 million judgment — arguing that damages were first incurred in 2013, when “Dark Horse” was released — as well as over $20,000 in assorted court costs.
When reached for comment, an attorney for the plaintiffs referred Billboard back to a statement from their original opposition filing in November that states, “Defendants’ [‘travesty-of-justice’] press release cannot alter the fact that a unanimous nine-person jury found the Defendants and their expert witnesses less credible than the witnesses for the Plaintiffs, and reached a verdict firmly rooted in the evidence presented at trial.”
In addition to Perry and Dr. Luke, “Dark Horse” collaborators Karl Martin Sandberg (Max Martin), Sarah Hudson, Jordan Houston (Juicy J) Henry Walter (Cirkut) and several companies — namely Capitol Records, Kobalt Music Publishing, Warner Bros. Music Corp. and Dr. Luke’s Kasz Money, Inc. — were found liable by the jury. Co-plaintiffs included Gray’s “Joyful Noise” collaborators Chike Ojukwu and Emanuel Lambert.
When it was reached last summer, the “Dark Horse” verdict was viewed as a landmark copyright decision with broad implications for the music industry. In its wake, multiple experts told Billboard that the outcome could result in an increasing number of similar lawsuits.