A Divided Lawsuit

Plagiarism in music is becoming more apparent as generations pass.

Camilla S and Kaitlyn M

Plagiarism in music is becoming more apparent as generations pass.

Thomas T. and Everett C.

Released on October 1st, 2020, Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” proved to be appropriately titled as it ranked on the top Billboard 100, reaching #2 at its peak. However, the legacy of this song would soon be permanently stained.

On March 1, 2022, a reggae band called Artikal Sound System filed a lawsuit against Dua Lipa for plagiarizing their song, “Live Your Life.” The case has not been brought to court just yet, but listeners are concerned and disappointed with the alleged artistic theft.

“I used to look up to [Dua Lipa], but now my respect for her has somewhat diminished. I listened to countless songs of hers, so it was heartbreaking when I saw what was going on,” said 7th grader, Bettina L.

Because the Artikal Sound System was a relatively unknown band, many people assumed it was another case of ‘clout-chasing’ until they heard the lyrics.

Without preliminary knowledge of music, there are clear similarities between the two songs. Firstly, they share a similar chord progression: (Bm7/F#m7/Em7/Bm7 and Bm7/F#m7/Em7/Em7 respectively). This alone does not suffice, as numerous songs contain the same progression.

More importantly, however, the pieces both employ a rhythm called the ‘Charleston.’ According to musician and Youtuber Adam Neely, “The Charleston is a dotted eighth note, followed by a sixteenth note and a rest.”

Moreover, the lyrics and rhyme scheme in “Levitating” seem to be derived from Artikal Sound System’s “Live Your Life,” sharing common words such as light and night.

Despite the abundance of similarities, the lawsuit seems weak. In Neely’s video, he noted how both of the songs take inspiration from Outkast’s “Rosa Parks.” Dua Lipa herself stated how Outkast has given her inspiration for her album, Future Nostalgia.

As if this wasn’t evidenced enough, Dua Lipa has already publicly documented the genesis of “Levitating,” on episode 194 of the podcast, Song Exploder.

This lawsuit is one of many, where lesser-known musicians work together to take down the celebrity’s counterfeit. Although the evidence does not sufficiently prove that Dua Lipa copied Artikal Sound System, the lawsuit paints a murky picture of today’s music industry.

“I despise artists copying other artists. It’s just wrong because the original artist put work into that, and you can’t just take it. But nowadays, there are so many songs out there that it’s inevitable to have some similarities,” said 7th grader, Prisha V.

As music evolves, originality continues to diminish as more art is published. In this case, the similarities between both songs come from an older generation. If basic chords in music could be copyrighted, many works could be accused of ‘plagiarism’ in one way or another. 

“[Musicians today] can be sued for basically anything down to the lyrics and chords. It’s so hard to produce music now because there are older songs that artists take inspiration from, and they can easily get copyrighted,” said 7th grader, Anne Drew A.