The lawsuit against Katy Perry’s copyright infringement for her smash hit, “Dark Horse”, has come to a close. The singer was found guilty for copyright infringement in August 2019, and it cost her a whopping $2.78 million.
While the defense team argued Perry used basic pop music building blocks for the song, the jury found otherwise. The lesson to be learned is that one can never be too careful.
So what steps can creatives take to avoid getting sued for copyright infringement?
Be inspired, but don’t copy.
There’s a blurred line between saying one was inspired by a creative piece, and actually “taking” a part of it for your original idea. Even if Perry had admitted to using another artist’s song as inspiration for “Dark Horse”, the verdict shows that she was inspired a bit too much. The lesson here: admire others, but stay 100% original. If you question whether it may violate copyright laws, it probably does.
If you really love something, ask permission.
So let’s say you really, really love a song (or photograph or painting, etc.) and want to use some of it in your music (or artwork, etc.), you’re better off just asking and getting written permission. Find out who the owner is and ask if you could use it or have a license to use it. It’ll be a hit or miss (and may even cost you some — or a lot — of money), but it’s better than getting sued later on.
When in doubt, look it up.
If you have any questions regarding copyright — including how much of a work you can use (and in what manner) — definitely consider talking to a lawyer or doing some research through the U.S. Copyright Office website. Their FAQ page at the Copyright Office site has tons of answers you may be searching for, too.