An expert witness could spell disaster for Katy Perry and her “Dark Horse” copyright case
The protracted copyright infringement trial hears a damning witness against Perry
The furor about whether Lil Nas X ‘stole’ a beat from Nine Inch Nails came and went, and was settled almost before it began, but Katy Perry and her 2013 hit song “Dark Horse”, has had no such luck.
Sued by a group of authors and producers of a 2008 Christian Rap song called “Joyful Noise,” the case went to trial that has been going on since 2014.
But, as Billboard and Digital Music News report, as the trial finally began in the second week of July of this year, the trial heard some damning evidence by the plaintiff’s expert witness, Todd Decker — a musicologist and professor who serves as the chair of music at Washington University in St. Louis.
Decker even sang in court, not either of the songs themselves complete with their lyrics but, as Billboard puts it, “numbers representing the pitch in each note of the two instrumental beats at issue — both of which had been previously characterized by the musicologist as an eight-note ‘ostinato,’ a.k.a. a repeating sequence of musical figures within a song.”
In Decker’s opinion, those ostinatos share “five or six points of similarity,” including pitch, rhythm, texture, a pattern of repetition, melodic shape and timbre, or “the quality and color of a sound.” He also added that the “descending melodies” of both ostinatos are unique. “I have not seen another piece that descends in the way these two do,” he noted.
While this part of his testimony might need further explanation by music experts, his other part concerning how easy it was for the defendants to access “Joyful Noise”, which they claimed they never heard before, could have a much clearer effect – it turns out that that prior to the release of Perry’s “Dark Horse” in 2013, the former song had nearly five million streams on MySpace and YouTube.