Award-winning pop star Dua Lipa is facing another copyright claim over her chart-topping hit “Levitating,” this time from a pair of veteran songwriters who have previously sued—and won—over the song they claim serves as the basis for Lipa’s hit.
L. Russell Brown and Sandy Linzer sued Lipa and rapper Da Baby in federal court in Manhattan, saying that Lipa’s version of the song and a remix with Da Baby, née Jonathan Lyndale Kirk, are infringements of a song the duo wrote in the 1970s.
Brown and Linzer are the writers and composers behind the 1979 song “Wiggle and Giggle All Night,” recorded by singer Cory Daye. Brown is the composer of well-known songs “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” and “Knock Three Times.” Linzer wrote multiple hits for Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and composed songs for the Four Tops and Whitney Houston. Both have been nominated for induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, according to the complaint.
“Levitating” was the top Billboard Hot 100 song in 2021, and spent more than 68 weeks on the chart, Billboard reported. The song is also the longest-running top 10 song ever by a female artist on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, according to Billboard. It is on Lipa’s album “Future Nostalgia,” which was nominated for a 2021 Album of the Year Grammy award and won the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album.
Brown and Linzer say that in addition to copying their 1979 song, which the complaint says was a hit in the Netherlands and Dutch nightclubs, “Levitating” also violates the 1980 song “Don Diablo.” Although Brown and Linzer didn’t write that song, they successfully sued for the copyright in 1983, the complaint says.
The complaint refers to those two works collectively as the “original works” or the “BL songs.”
Lipa is already facing a lawsuit from Florida-based reggae band Artikal Sound System, which claims that “Levitating” is based on the band’s 2017 “Live Your Life.”
But unlike that complaint, which was thin on details as to exactly how “Levitating” allegedly copied from the band’s original song, Brown and Linzer provide transcriptions of portions of the songs they say show a similarity between the songs too close to be ignored.
“It is apparent that all three iterations of the melody are substantially similar,” the complaint says. “The notes move in the same direction with evenly matched intervals or ‘steps,’ and almost identical rhythms.”
Although Linzer and Brown appear to clearly be serious in their quest for both compensatory and punitive damages, their complaint peppers their allegations with puns.
“The objective analysis of musical composition and the subjective listening experience of music lovers demonstrate that Defendants have levitated away Plaintiffs’ intellectual property,” the complaint says. “Plaintiffs bring suit so that Defendants cannot wiggle out of their willful infringement.”
Brown and Linzer say that the popularity of Lipa’s song on social media amplified their damages.
“TikTok is designed around short attention spans,” the complaint says in a footnote. “The signature melody, being at the spearhead of 1.5 million ‘Levitating’ TikTok videos, thus has an outsized role in creating favorable impressions of the song,” the footnote also says.
The complaint also says that the similarities between “Levitating” and the plaintiffs’ songs are widely known.
“Professionals and laypersons alike have noticed the substantial similarities between the infringing works and the BL songs,” the complaint says, citing media reports and a comment from at least one music producer.
Linzer and Brown also provide multiple examples of Lipa and one of her co-defendants, songwriter Stephen Kozmeniuk, saying in interviews that they looked to music from prior decades, including the 1970s and 80s, to create a “modern retro theme” for the “Future Nostalgia” album.
“In seeking nostalgic inspiration, Defendants copied Plaintiffs’ creation without attribution,” the complaint says.
Listen to “Levitating,” “Don Diablo”, “Wiggle and Giggle All Night,” and “Live Your Life,” by Artikal Sound System, below.
[Image via Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy; image of sheet music via court filing.]
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