Music rights claim: Katy Perry song tainted Christian rap tune

Copyright laws protect California authors. Authors include, but are not limited to, the creators of literary works as well as art, television shows, plays, movies and music. Laws cover music rights to a song and recordings of that song.

A work must be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office for an author to exercise the right to file a copyright infringement lawsuit. A songwriter has the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, modify and publicly perform a song. People other than an author are allowed to do these things, too, but only with the copyright holder’s permission.

Singer Katy Perry, Capitol Records LLC and individuals associated with the song “Dark Horse” are being sued by a group of Christian rap artists. Four musicians – among them Flame, also known as Marcus Gray — claim “Dark Horse” infringes upon a 2008 religious track called “Joyful Noise.” The Christian song was included on the Grammy nominated “Our World: Redeemed” album.

The plaintiffs also allege Perry and other defendants exploited and tainted “Joyful Noise” by associating it with the unchristian elements of “paganism” and “black magic.” According to an attorney for one of the plaintiffs, the hip-hop musicians learned about the similarities between “Joyful Noise” and “Dark Horse” through online comparisons of the songs. Musicians can make derivatives and perform the works of other creative artists. However, permission to do so usually involves fees and a licensing agreement, an important stream of income for a song copyright holder.

Musicians who bring copyright infringement claims may receive statutory damages or compensation for actual losses. In addition, a court may order a defendant to stop using, selling or performing a disputed song. Among exceptions in copyright laws are independently-created duplications of a work or part of a work. Clear proof of infringement and evidence of no infringement are necessary to support the litigants’ individual legal positions.

Source: Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “St. Louis Christian hip-hop singers sue Katy Perry over ‘Dark Horse’,” Robert Patrick, July 1, 2014