Is Dua Lipa’s Hit Song ‘Levitating’ Really Copyright Infringement?
Lawsuit “must be dismissed” according to Lipa’s Lawyer.
It’s happened before with the likes of Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande. However, most recently affected is pop sensation Dua Lipa with her 2020 single “Levitating." Escaping copyright claims is unlikely when you have a smash hit that spent a record-breaking 77 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, but Lipa has managed to be hit by two different lawsuits. Is it actually plagiarism, or just a similar use of basic musical concepts?
The first lawsuit was filed by songwriters L. Russell Brown and Sandy Linzer, claiming “Levitating” copied their 1979 song “Wiggle and Giggle All Night”, stating the track is stealing their “signature melody” and “compositional elements.” However, Lepera, Lipa’s lawyer, blasts the plaintiffs, stating “the alleged similarities — a descending scale in which each pitch is repeated on evenly spaced notes, and a common clave rhythm— are unprotectable, and the result of the coincidental use of basic musical building blocks”. The second lawsuit, filed by a Florida reggae band called Artikal Sound System, claiming “Levitating” copies elements of their 2017 song “Live Your Life,” but has not been responded to as yet. This claim, however, can be disputed in the same way.
Nerdy musical analysis. Let’s go. Both tracks use a similar chord progression, Im7-Vm7-IVm7 with a different final chord, which is a popular progression within a dance-style song and therefore barely even noteworthy in a copyright claim. Both are in the key of B minor and around 100bpm, accentuating their similarity, but again it holds no weight within this lawsuit. Additionally, both melodies are written in “The Charleston Rhythm” which is a rhythm so popularly used, it has its own name. We could go more in depth, but I think the main takeaway is clear: the similarities are easily noticeable, but you can not copyright a musical concept.
Music is incredibly finite.