Perry and the other songwriters were taken to court
by Christian hip-hoppers Flame (Lecrae
and John Reilly) for allegedly stealing the beat from their 2008 single "Joyful Noise
." for this tune.
The lawsuit claimed that the songwriters stole the track and presented it as their own. It was also alleged that Perry ruined the faith-based message of the song by creating a blasphemous video containing uses of witchcraft, idols and black magic. "The devoutly religious message of 'Joyful Nose' has been irreparably tarnished by its association with the witchcraft, paganism, black magic and Illuminati imagery evoked by the same music in 'Dark Horse,'" read the suit. "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."
Flame took home a Gospel Music Association Dove Award for "Joyful Noise" while the LP it's from, Our World: Redeemed
, won the Grammy for best rock or rap gospel album.
On July 29, 2019, a nine-member federal jury found that "Dark Horse" was sufficiently similar to "Joyful Noise" to constitute copyright infringement. The plaintiffs were awarded $2.78 million in damages, of which Perry herself was ordered to pay $550,000.
On March 17, 2020, the ruling was overturned on appeal, with the judge saying the passage in question was "not a particularly unique or rare combination."