Katy Perry lost a copyright infringement claim this week after she and her label were ordered to pay Marcus Gray (or Flame) $2.8 million in damages for copying parts of his song “Joyful Noise” in Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse”.
It’s always difficult to draw the line between taking legitimate inspiration from pre-existing works (which is fine) and copying (which is not). It’s an issue the Court’s have had to grapple with for years. In the UK we look to the level of skill and labour made by the creator to assess whether the creator’s efforts in those regards make the work worthy of protection in its own right.
Seal seems to have come up with his own version of the test and there’s something I quite like about his nod to inspiration being perfectly fine provided you add “your own personality” (see his quote below).
There have been a number of high profile music industry related copyright claims since the “Blurred Line” claim and it seems there’s a developing trend for the Courts to decide in favour of the earlier songwriters.
So in the words of Seal, “don’t steal”, unless you want to run the risk of a copyright claim rearing its ugly head.
‘It’s very hard to find a musician who is 100 per cent original, we all borrow, we’re all influenced by music,’ he said. ‘I guess the trick is you can’t steal, you can’t plagiarise… you have to at least insert your own personality.’