Dua Lipa is once again facing a copyright infringement lawsuit over her 2020 megahit Levitating, this time from a California producer who says the British pop star used his work in the song’s hit remixes without permission.
Lawyers for Bosko Kante, a music producer, engineer and entrepreneur, filed a complaint on Monday (July 31) with the US District Court for the Central District of California.
The complaint states that Stephen Kozmeniuk, one of the producers credited on Levitating, approached Kante in 2019, asking him to create a talkbox vocal to be used on the song. The complaint, obtained by MBW, can be read in full here.
(A talkbox is a device that allows musicians to modify the sound of a musical instrument using their voice. It was most famously employed by 1970s rocker Peter Frampton, and in the opening bars of Bon Jovi’s 1987 hit Livin’ On A Prayer.)
Kante agreed, and recorded a talkbox performance to be used on the song, despite “multiple” attempts at coming to a licensing agreement for the performance, the complaint alleges.
According to the complaint, Kante and the song’s producers finally came to an oral agreement for his performance to appear on the original album version of the song – but not on any future remixes.
Despite this alleged oral agreement, Kante’s performance appeared on three remixes of Levitating, including the remix featuring rapper DaBaby, the complaint alleges. The DaBaby version of the song has become the most successful version, with 767 million views of the song’s video on YouTube, and 1.8 billion streams on Spotify.
This isn’t the first time that Levitating has been the focus of a copyright infringement suit. In March 2022, a band called Artikal Sound System filed a lawsuit alleging that Levitating is “substantially similar” to their track Live Your Life.
Kante was actually also named as a co-defendant in that lawsuit, along with Dua Lipa, Kozmeniuk, songwriters Sarah Hudson and Clarence Coffee Jr., and Warner Records.
That lawsuit was dismissed this past June, with a federal district court judge in California concluding that Artikal Sound System had failed to prove that the defendants had had an opportunity to hear and copy Live Your Life.
In another lawsuit, songwriters L. Russell Brown and Sandy Linzer claimed that Dua Lipa ripped off their song from 1979, called Wiggle and Giggle All Night.
Kante’s new complaint against Lipa alleges that his work also appeared on a remix of the song from DJ Blessed Madonna, which features Madonna and Missy Elliott, and which has been streamed 55 million times on Spotify, and viewed 39 million times on YouTube, as well as a third remix created in 2022 for the American Music Awards.
“All three remixes sampled and incorporated a greater amount of plaintiff’s work than that used in the original version, including, but not limited to, additional lyrics and melody that were created by plaintiff, which do not appear in the original version,” the complaint alleges.
“Plaintiff made numerous attempts to resolve this matter short of litigation, but such efforts were unsuccessful, due to defendants’ unwillingness to cooperate or accept responsibility for this blatant infringement of plaintiff’s copyrights,” the complaint adds.
The lawsuit seeks at least $2 million plus interest in damages, as well as profits made from the remixes, which it estimates as being at least $20 million.
The lawsuit names Dua Lipa, Kozmeniuk and Warner Music Group as defendants, along with 10 unnamed defendants that the complaint says were individuals or companies that were involved with the named defendants in violating Kante’s copyright.
Levitating is one of the biggest hit songs of recent years. Appearing on Lipa’s second album, Future Nostalgia, it holds the record for longest-charting song by a female artist on the US Billboard 100, having spent 77 weeks on the chart in 2020 and 2021.
“Plaintiff made numerous attempts to resolve this matter short of litigation, but such efforts were unsuccessful, due to defendants’ unwillingness to cooperate or accept responsibility for this blatant infringement of plaintiff’s copyrights.”
Complaint, filed on behalf of Bosko Kante
Besides being a DJ and producer, Kante is co-founder of ElectroSpit, a company that produces a mobile version of the talk box which Kante reportedly developed himself.
According to Kante’s bio on the company’s website, his name has appeared in the credits of records that have sold 11 million copies, and he has worked with the music of such artists as Kanye West, Drake, Tupac and J. Cole.Music Business Worldwide