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Gray v. Perry

United States District Court for the Central District of California

March 16, 2020, Decided; March 16, 2020, Filed

Case No. 2:15-CV-05642-CAS-JCx

Opinion

*AMENDED

CIVIL MINUTES — GENERAL

Proceedings: DEFENDANTS' RENEWED MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW, OR ALTERNATIVELY FOR A NEW TRIAL (ECF No. 483, filed October 9, 2019; ECF No. 435, filed July 25, 2019; and ECF No. 459, filed 31,

PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR AN AWARD OF PREJUDGMENT INTEREST (ECF No. 488, filed October 10, 2019)

I. INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND

This copyright infringement action concerns the allegation that an 8-note ostinatoi1 from defendants' song "Dark Horse" infringes upon the plaintiffs' copyright in the musical composition of the 8-note ostinato in their song "Joyful Noise." Following a jury trial, the jury found for the plaintiffs, awarded damages, and the Court entered judgment. Now before the Court [*3]  are defendants' renewed motions for judgment as a matter of law, or in the alternative for a new trial, as well as plaintiffs' motion for prejudgment interest on its damages award.

Plaintiffs Marcus Gray (P.K.A. Flame), Emanuel Lambert, and Chike Ojukwu filed the operative third amended complaint on November 1, 2016, naming defendants Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson (P.K.A. Katy Perry), Jordan Houston (P.K.A. Juicy J), Lukasz Gottwald (P.K.A. Dr. Luke), Sarah Theresa Hudson, Karl Martin Sandberg (P.K.A. Max Martin), Henry Russell Walter (P.K.A. Cirkut), Kasz Money Inc., Capitol Records LLC, Kitty Puny Inc., UMG Recordings Inc., Universal Music Group Inc., WB Music Corp., BMG Rights Management (US) LLC, and Kobalt Music Publishing America, Inc. See ECF No. 172 ("TAC"). In substance, plaintiffs claim that the instrumental beat of the ostinato in "Joyful Noise" is protectable original expression, and that the defendants had access to and copied that protectable original expression when they composed an allegedly infringing ostinato for their song "Dark Horse."

The Court held a jury trial from July 17, 2019, through August 1, 2019. The jury entered verdicts finding defendants [*4]  liable to plaintiffs for copyright infringement, and awarding plaintiffs $2.8 million in damages. The Court entered judgment in favor of plaintiffs on September 11, 2019. See ECF No. 473. Defendants filed the instant renewed motions for judgment as a matter of law, or in the alternative for a new trial, on October 9, 2019. See ECF No. 485 ("JMOL"). Plaintiffs filed an opposition on November 20, 2019. See ECF No. 499 ("JMOL Opp."). Defendants filed a reply on December 27, 2019. ECF No. 508 ("JMOL Reply"). In addition to these submissions from the parties, a group of musicologists submitted an amicus brief in support of defendants' motion for renewed judgment as a matter of law, or in the alternative a new trial, on January 9, 2020. See ECF No. 514 ("Am. Br.").

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2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 46313 *

GRAY; ET AL. v. PERRY; ET AL.

Prior History: Gray v. Hudson, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 140046 (C.D. Cal., Oct. 13, 2015)

CORE TERMS

ostinato, matter of law, musical, infringement, composition, song, plaintiffs', extrinsic, new trial, unprotectable, substantially similar, copyright protection, prejudgment interest, rhythm, defendants', copying, sequence, pitch, entitled to judgment, Records, copyright infringement, district court, damages, beat, similarity, intrinsic, weight of the evidence, musical composition, profits, cases