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Gray v. Hudson

The panel affirmed the district court’s order vacating a jury’s award of damages for copyright infringement and granting judgment as a matter of law to Katheryn Hudson (pka Katy Perry) and other defendants.

Christian hip-hop artists Marcus Gray (pka Flame), Emanuel Lambert, and Chike Ojukwu claimed that an ostinato, or repeating instrumental figure, in Hudson’s song “Dark Horse” copied a similar ostinato in plaintiffs’ song “Joyful Noise.”

The panel held that copyright law protects musical works only to the extent that they are “original works of authorship.” The panel concluded that the ostinatos at issue here consisted entirely of commonplace musical elements, and the similarities between them did not arise out of an original combination of these elements. Consequently, the jury’s verdict finding defendants liable for copyright infringement was unsupported by the evidence because plaintiffs failed to put forward legally sufficient evidence that Joyful Noise and Dark Horse were extrinsically similar works with respect to any musical features protectable under copyright law.

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