ST. LOUIS (CN) - Four Christian hip-hop artists claim in court that Katy Perry ripped off their song for her mega-hit "Dark Horse," which they say tarnished the original tune with images of "witchcraft, paganism" and "black magic."
Marcus Gray pka Flame, Lecrae Moore pka Lecrae, Emanuel Lambert and Chike Ojukwu sued Katy Perry, Capitol Records, Jordan Houston pka Juicy J, and others in Federal Court on Tuesday.
The plaintiffs claim the defendants used Lacrae's song "Joyful Noise" without permission in Perry's "Dark Horse."
"By any measure, the 'Dark Horse' song also constitutes an infringement of plaintiffs' copyright in their Christian gospel song 'Joyful Noise,' released five years before 'Dark Horse,'" the lawsuit states. "Specifically, defendants' unauthorized reproduction, distribution, and public performance of plaintiffs' musical composition constitute infringement of plaintiffs' exclusive rights in their copyright.
"And by any measure, the devoutly religious message of 'Joyful Noise' has been irreparably tarnished by its association with the witchcraft, paganism, black magic, and Illuminati imagery evoked by the same music in 'Dark Horse.' Indeed, the music video of 'Dark Horse' generated widespread accusations of blasphemy and an online petition signed by more than 60,000 demanding removal of an offensive religious image from the video."
The plaintiffs claim that Perry has performed "Dark Horse" in front of sold-out concerts throughout the country, that millions of copies have been sold and downloaded and that 435 million people have watched the "Dark Horse" video on You Tube.
Joyful Noise was created in 2007 and appeared on Flame's album "Our World: Redeemed," which was released in 2008. The album received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album and "Joyful Noise" received a 2008 Gospel Music Association Dove Award nomination for the Best Rap/Hip Hop Recorded Song of the Year. "Joyful Noise" featured Lecrae.
"Dark Horse" was released in September 2013. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts in January and stayed in the top spot for weeks.
"Defendants never sought or obtained permission from plaintiffs to use the 'Joyful Noise' song in creating, reproducing, recording, distributing, selling, or publicly performing defendants' song," the complaint states.
"Plaintiffs never gave any of the defendants permission, consent, or a license to use 'Joyful Noise' for any purpose, including creation of a derivative work based on 'Joyful Noise.'"
The plaintiffs seek an injunction, damages and the defendants' profits gained from the unauthorized use of "Joyful Noise."
They are represented by Drey A. Cooley, with Capes Sokol Goodman & Sarachan.
Lecrae is one of the most popular Christian hip-hop artists. He has won a Grammy, four Dove Awards and a Stellar Award for his music.
Lecrae also advocates for responsibility and fatherhood as a value among men in the United States. In 2013, he partnered with NBA star Dwayne Wade in the multimedia initiative "This is Fatherhood," as part of President Barack Obama's Fathering and Mentoring Initiative.