9 August 2023
Levitating: Rising above the copyright noise
By Sean Waterman, Head of IP
Pop Star Dua Lipa, record producer Stephen Kozmeniuk and Warner Brothers Music Group are subject to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles over the use of a recording used in her hit track ‘Levitating’. This is the third lawsuit relating to the track.
This case highlights the potential risks of relying on verbal contracts, especially when creative artists collaborate.
Music producer Bosko Kante is seeking over $20 million for the unauthorised use of a recording he made using a tubeless mobile Talk Box developed by Electrospit, a company he founded. The device worn around the neck connects to a phone or synthesiser that turns vocal vibrations into sounds like musical instruments. Kante’s lawsuit claims that although he agreed to the use of the recording in the original track featured on the album ‘Future Nostalgia’, the oral agreement made with Kozmeniuk stipulated it could not be used in any remixes. His lawsuit relates to three uses in remixes he claims were unauthorised, a remix by DJ Blessed Madonna featuring Madonna and Missy Elliot, a remix featuring the rapper DaBaby, as well as a remix performed live by Lua Lipa at the American Music Awards.
Kante claims the remixes sample and use more of his work from the recording than the original track including additional lyrics and melody and their use is more prominent in two of the remixes. He asserts that he owns the copyright in his performance featured in the recording and did not sell or assign his rights and as such the use of his recording in the remixes without his permission infringes his copyright and that as derivative works, he owns and/or co-owns the copyright to the remixes. He is also claiming that it was agreed only seven musicians, including himself, would be used to produce the original track and that the subsequent use of more musicians significantly reduced his share of the royalties.
This case highlights the potential risks of relying on verbal contracts, especially when creative artists collaborate. Written agreements can provide clarity in who owns the rights to collaborative works and how they may be used, including their use in any derivative works such as remixes. Written agreements provide clarity on who owns the rights to collaborative works and how they may be used, including their use in any derivative works such as remixes.
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Court documents relating to this case are available on the Free Law project’s Court Listener website https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/67652948/bosko-kante-v-dua-lipa/