The Current

Inspiration vs. plagiarism: How copyright lawsuit of Katy Perry's hit Dark Horse puts spotlight on music theft

The now-resolved plagiarism battle over Katy Perry's 2013 hit Dark Horse puts the spotlight on the complicated and increasingly common world of copyright infringement in the music industry.

The Current's Geoff Turner analyzes the complicated world of music plagiarism

Katy Perry performs Dark Horse during the 2015 Super Bowl halftime show. In the U.S., nearly 115 million people watched the pop star's performance. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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The now-resolved plagiarism battle over Katy Perry's 2013 hit Dark Horse puts the spotlight on the complicated and increasingly common world of copyright infringement in the music industry.

The pop song, which spent 10 weeks as the No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, was "ready for the perfect storm," as its lyrics reference.

Perry, her collaborators and her record label were ordered to pay more than $2.78 million US last month after a jury in a Los Angeles courtroom found Dark Horse copied the rhythmic instrumental riff of the 2008 Christian rap song Joyful Noise. 

The underdog victory for rapper Marcus Gray — who released Joyful Noise under the stage name Flame — demonstrates a shift in the legal interpretation of music plagiarism.

The Current's Geoff Turner examines why accusations of music plagiarism seem to be more prevalent these days and how the digital availability of songs make it easier for artists to copy others, intentionally or not.


Produced by Geoff Turner.

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