Dua Lipa is facing two lawsuits (Picture: Getty)
While Ed, 31, is currently giving testimony in the High Court in a bid to prove he didn’t copy his track Shape Of You, a second lawsuit has been filed against Dua’s Levitating. Meanwhile, Sam Smith, 29, and Normani, 25, are facing a lawsuit over their song Dancing With A Stranger.
Ed has denied the claims that he copied his song Shape Of You. Neither Sam nor Dua, 26, has publicly responded to the lawsuits against them.
Nick Eziefula, Partner in the Commercial group at at leading media, entertainment and commercial law firm Simkins LLP, told Metro.co.uk: ‘Cases like this are common. The old saying rings true: “Where there’s a hit, there’s a writ”. A few years ago, Marvin Gaye’s family successfully claimed copyright infringement against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams over the hit Blurred Lines.
‘Many felt the case might open the floodgates to similar claims, blurring the line between inspiration and infringement. There have been many such claims since, such as these claims against Dua Lipa.’
So what can Dua do? At this point, she needs to listen to the experts, and she also might have the opportunity to give testimony herself, like Ed’s doing – but artists doing that need to be careful.
Ed Sheeran has given testimony in the High Court (Picture: PA)
‘Dua Lipa and her team will most likely be taking guidance from expert musicologists as to whether there is an objective similarity between her songs and those alleged to have been copied, and whether substantial copying took place. These are complex technical questions that involve both music theory and copyright law concepts,’ Eziefula pointed out.
‘In the US, cases of this sort are often ultimately determined by a jury at trial. In that situation, giving testimony oneself (as Ed Sheeran appears to be doing) can be powerful, where the defendant’s personal appearance is likely to win the confidence and support of the jury.
The Blurred Lines lawsuit
In 2015, a judge ruled that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ controversial 2013 hit Blurred Lines shared similarities to Marvin Gaye’s 1977 song Got To Give It Up.
They were ordered to pay half the royalties to Gaye’s family and pay out $5.3million (£4million) in damages.
It was a landmark decision, with more than 200 artists later supporting Thicke and Williams in an ultimately unsuccessful appeal.
Frankie Gaye and Nona Gaye, two of the late singer’s children, called the decision ‘a victory for the rights of all musicians,’ while Pharrell insisted it would have a negative impact on the music industry.
‘It’s bad for music because we’ve had an understanding of what a song is, and now based on that one case, there’s a question of what a song is,’ he said in 2019.
‘It’s not what it used to be because in the past, it would be the chords, the melody and the words … And your chords, your melody and your words — none of them had anything to do [with Gaye’s song].’
‘But in some cases, it can have the opposite effect – some felt that Robin Thicke’s testimony in court in the Blurred Lines case did not endear him to the jury.’
Another option is to go down the Olivia Rodrigo route. Shortly after the release of her songs Deja Vu and Good 4 U, she added songwriting credits for Taylor Swift and Paramore.
‘It is usually far more straightforward, and less costly, to head off a potential claim early by agreeing a deal, rather than running the risk of expensive and unpredictable court proceedings,’ Eziefula explained. ‘Many of these cases settle early, or are avoided altogether by obtaining a permission and giving a credit and a share of the commercial upside.’
How is it determined if an artist copied their song?
‘Under English copyright law, these cases come down to whether a substantial part of the original song has been copied. This is a complex technical question that involves both music theory and copyright law concepts,’ Eziefula continued.
‘Where there has been no copying there is no infringement – actual copying needs to have occurred. If two people create very similar songs, but entirely independently of each other, without copying, there is no infringement. So sometimes artists accused of plagiarism claim to have independently created their material, alleging no knowledge of the original song.
Olivia Rodrigo retrospectively added songwriting credits for Taylor Swift and Paramore to her album Sour (Picture: Getty Images for iHeartMedia)
‘Use of someone’s unique musical composition without their permission is typically an infringement. However, nobody owns individual notes. Indeed, many musical themes that are present in multiple compositions (such as widely used chord progressions) are effectively the basic building blocks of music.
‘These cannot be protected by copyright, as to do so would restrict musicians’ ability to create. So defendants in plagiarism cases often try to show that any similarities between the songs in question are based on generic elements that nobody owns.
‘Also, copyright exceptions may permit the fair use of someone else’s song for the purpose of parody, pastiche, criticism or review. But this is often not relevant to cases involving well-known commercial pop songs, which will have been used far more broadly.
‘There have always been cases of this nature. But in recent years, high profile successful claims (e.g. Blurred Lines – see above) may have encouraged claimants to come forward.
‘The underlying law has not changed, but there does seem to be an increasing appetite for litigation.’
Metro.co.uk has contacted reps for Dua Lipa and Sam Smith for comment.