Two copyright infringement suits have been brought against pop star Dua Lipa in connection with her 2020 hit “Levitating.” The first suit was brought by reggae band Artikal Sound System based on their 2017 song, “Live Your Life.” The second was initiated by L. Russell Brown and Sandy Linzer, who alleged that Lipa copies parts from at least one of two different songs: “Wiggle and Giggle All Night,” a song written in 1979, and another song from the following year “Don Diablo.”
Determining whether copyright infringement exists between songs is no simple feat. To prove copyright infringement, a plaintiff must show (1) that it owns a valid copyright and (2) that the defendant copied protectable aspects of the copyrighted work.
It is important to understand that even if there is a valid copyright, not every part of that work is protectable. Only original elements of the work garner protection. Moreover, only the copying of protected parts of a work is infringement. If a defendant can prove that they created a similar work without copying plaintiff’s work, no infringement is present.
Importantly, an idea cannot be copyrighted. Only a particular manifestation or expression of an idea can be entitled to copyright protection. Copyright infringement cases are often very complicated.
Simply listening to the songs or even looking to the lyrics is not enough. In Western music, there are only 12 notes, and most popular music utilizes a subset of those 12. With this limited number, it is easy to imagine two individuals independently coming up with similar melodies.
As between “Levitating” and “Live Your Life,” both songs are in the key of B minor and are around 100 beats per minute. Some lyrical similarities are present as well. “Levitating” also shares some similarities with “Wiggle and Giggle All Night,” and “Don Diablo,” such as in structure and vibe. Only time (and maybe a jury) will tell whether those similarities are enough to prove copyright infringement.