Melodic Legalese: Navigating Dua Lipa’s Third Copyright Challenge in Levitating

This article delves into the intricate and multifaceted legal clash involving Bosko Kante, the ingenious creator of the ElectroSpit talk box, and the internationally acclaimed singer Dua Lipa, along with co-defendants Stephen Kozmeniuk and Warner Music Group. Within this legal saga, Kante has brought forth claims of copyright infringement and breach of contract, igniting a nuanced examination of the dispute’s intricacies and the potential arguments and defenses that may unfold. By delving into the factual background, dissecting pertinent legal theories, and anticipating potential lines of defense, this article endeavors to illuminate the intricate interplay between copyright law and contractual agreements, set against the backdrop of modern musical collaboration and creation. The case, officially filed in California on July 31, 2023, serves as a pertinent illustration of the evolving challenges that artists, creators, and the music industry at large grapple with in today’s ever-evolving creative landscape.

Factual Background

In the realm of music technology, the ElectroSpit talk box, conceived by Bosko Kante, represents an innovative stride in shaping sound and infusing musical instruments with human-like vocalizations. Its profound impact is exemplified through its integration into the popular track ‘Levitating,’ where Kante’s revolutionary creation takes on a pivotal role. Dua Lipa’s ‘Levitating’ itself emerges as a modern-day sensation, seamlessly blending nostalgia with contemporary flair to capture a global audience, ultimately securing a spot as Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100 single of 2021. Despite its soaring success, the song’s journey has been shadowed by legal disputes, shedding light on the intricate complexities of artistic collaboration and legal safeguarding within the music industry. This legal entanglement is not the first for ‘Levitating,’ as prior conflicts involving allegations of copying and copyright infringement have underscored the contentious path the song has navigated through the legal landscape.

Copyright Infringement Claim

In the realm of copyright infringement concerning Bosko Kante’s involvement in ‘Levitating,’ his use of the ElectroSpit talk box emerges as a central point. Kante asserts that his creative input, including self-authored vocal lines, was pivotal to the song’s unique auditory character. The focal dispute pertains to the eligibility and extent of copyright protection for Kante’s contributions. The narrative deepens with the Levitating Remixes, where Kante claims unauthorized utilization of his vocal work initially meant for the original version. Herein lies the crux of the infringement assertion—the unconsented integration of Kante’s lyrics and melodies within the remixes. Anticipating a multifaceted legal discourse, the accused parties—Dua Lipa, Stephen Kozmeniuk, and Warner Music Group—might offer counterarguments and defenses, such as asserting licensing permissions granted during recording, contesting originality aspects, challenging sound recording ownership, and scrutinizing the scope of Kante’s creative impact.

Breach of Contract Claim

Central to the breach of contract claim is Bosko Kante’s assertion of an oral agreement with the defendants, where specific terms were agreed upon, encompassing a fixed payment and a share of neighboring rights for his contributions to ‘Levitating’. However, a pivotal point of contention lies in the alleged restriction on reusing or sampling his work beyond the original version. Kante contends that the defendants breached this agreement by incorporating his work into the Levitating Remixes, exceeding the initially agreed scope and including additional musicians without adherence to the contractual terms. With the events unfolding in Central California, Kante’s demand for a jury trial sets the stage for a legal deliberation that will likely delve into the agreement’s existence, terms, and whether the defendants indeed breached the agreement by integrating Kante’s work into the remixes.

Legal Analysis and Discussion

The case at hand serves as a notable illustration of the complex web of rights and entitlements entwined within musical collaborations. It casts a spotlight on the multifaceted nature of co-collaborators positions in the music industry, ranging from session musicians asserting performers’ rights to co-collaborators jointly assuming the mantle of musical work authors. This intricate landscape accentuates the critical need for clearly delineated roles, rights, and royalty-sharing mechanisms, which can be effectively achieved through thoughtfully crafted written agreements. In an era marked by an upsurge in musical partnerships and the ever-evolving dynamics of creative processes, the profound importance of these written agreements takes center stage. These contractual frameworks not only establish the contours of ownership but also extend their influence to anticipate and manage potential future uses of the collaborative creation, thereby acting as robust mechanisms for preventing and resolving disputes. As the music industry continues to flourish through collaborative endeavors, the imperative for comprehensive, well-defined written agreements resonates as a cornerstone in navigating the intricate labyrinth of musical collaboration, production, and rights management.

Damages and Remedies

At the core of the legal proceedings, Kante’s pursuit of damages and remedies encompasses multifaceted aspects. His copyright infringement claim delves into the intricacies of quantifying damages resulting from the alleged unauthorized utilization of his creative contributions. In seeking redress, Kante’s aims encompass recovering losses incurred due to the infringement, along with the profits generated by the defendants through the unauthorized incorporation of his work, a calculation that embraces intricate variables like foregone licensing prospects, potential future earnings, and the commercial triumph of the Levitating Remixes. Alternately, Kante may opt for statutory damages, a path fraught with its own complexities, spanning from modest sums to substantial figures for each instance of infringement, potentially escalating further for deliberate violations.

Parallelly, the breach of contract claim ventures into the realm of contractual obligations and their repercussions. Here, Kante’s objective aligns with obtaining restitution for the defendants’ alleged non-compliance with the tenets of the oral agreement, encompassing the agreed-upon fixed payment and a stake in neighboring rights royalties. Delineating the magnitude of these damages entails meticulous scrutiny of industry norms, analogous agreements, and the possible financial reverberations of the breach on Kante’s economic interests.

Beyond the realm of pecuniary amends, Kante’s pursuit extends to declaratory and injunctive relief. In the former, his aspirations converge upon a legal determination that solidifies his rights and privileges pertaining to his contributions to ‘Levitating’. This respite seeks to cast illumination upon the legal standing of his work and its utilization within the Levitating Remixes. Simultaneously, Kante’s quest for injunctive relief endeavors to forestall any further exploitation of the remixes that stand accused of flouting the stipulations of the oral agreement. The invocation of an injunction envisages restraining the defendants from utilizing Kante’s work in any manner that contradicts the agreed-upon terms. In this intricate legal tapestry, Kante’s pursuit of damages and remedies weaves together a symphony of intricate calculations, contractual interpretations, and a fervent aspiration for equitable resolution.

Applicable laws

This legal dispute is a complex and multifaceted case that intersects copyright law and contractual agreements within the realm of musical collaboration and creation. Under U.S. law, this dispute falls primarily under the purview of the Copyright Act, specifically Title 17 of the United States Code.

Regarding the copyright infringement claim, the Copyright Act grants creators exclusive rights over their original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, which includes musical compositions and sound recordings. Kante’s assertion of unauthorized utilization of his vocal work in ‘Levitating’ and its remixes implicates several key provisions. Section 106 of the Copyright Act delineates the exclusive rights of copyright holders, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, and create derivative works. Kante’s argument hinges on the notion that his creative input, as exemplified through the ElectroSpit talk box, constitutes an original element deserving of copyright protection. This assertion implicates Section 102(a), which specifies the categories of copyrightable works, and Section 103, which establishes the scope of protection for derivative works. The dispute also invokes the concept of substantial similarity, requiring a comparison between Kante’s contributions and the accused works, thereby implicating a body of case law interpreting this standard.

In response, the defendants may invoke various defenses. Section 107 introduces the fair use doctrine, allowing limited use of copyrighted material without authorization for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. This defense might be raised if the defendants argue that their use of Kante’s work falls within these permissible categories. Additionally, Section 114 and Section 115 outline compulsory licenses for digital performances and mechanical reproductions, respectively, which may be invoked to contest Kante’s exclusive rights.

The breach of contract claim involves principles of contract law as applied in the context of the music industry. Contractual agreements, whether oral or written, are governed by state contract law principles, and relevant sections of the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) may apply. Kante’s assertion of an oral agreement introduces questions related to contract formation, terms, and enforcement. This implicates UCC Section 2-201, the Statute of Frauds, which requires certain contracts, including those not capable of being performed within one year, to be in writing to be enforceable. Furthermore, the concept of consideration, as outlined in Sections 71-75 of the Restatement (Second) of Contracts, becomes crucial in evaluating the validity of the oral agreement. The defendants may counter by raising defenses like lack of mutual assent or fraudulent inducement, thereby invoking Sections 16 and 17 of the Restatement (Second) of Contracts.

Precedential Analysis

Within the domain of copyright and contract law in the United States, a multitude of pertinent case precedents hold the potential to guide the resolution of the ongoing legal dispute between Bosko Kante and the parties represented by Dua Lipa et al. In the case of Arnstein v. Porter[1], a pivotal precedent was established—the “substantial similarity” test—profoundly impacting copyright infringement cases. The court’s ruling elucidated that if the alleged work bears a significant resemblance to the copyrighted material in terms of protected elements, the claim of infringement could be deemed valid. This tenet could prove indispensable in the present dispute, where the court could meticulously analyze the considerable likeness between Kante’s vocal use of the ElectroSpit talk box and the elements inherent in ‘Levitating’ and its associated remixes, thereby influencing the determination of potential copyright infringement.

Furthermore, the legal narrative of Bright Tunes Music Corp. v. Harrisongs Music, Ltd.[2] introduced the concept of subconscious copying as a foundation for copyright infringement claims. The court’s recognition of the inadvertent replication of safeguarded components as constituting infringement could parallel the present scenario, should the defendants argue that any semblance between Kante’s work and the accused compositions was unintentional. By leaning upon the principles outlined in this case, the court might navigate the intricate notion of subconscious copying and its implications.

Mistubishi Digital Electronics America, Inc. v. Discovery Communications, Inc.[3] serves as an exemplar emphasizing the vitality of explicit, documented agreements. It underscored the enforceability of contractual provisions forged between parties, even if not formally transcribed. In the context of the oral agreement proposed by Kante, this case could stand as a precedent for validating the agreement’s authenticity and enforcing its terms.

Similarly, Leonard v. Stemtech Health Sciences, Inc.[4] interconnects with the Statute of Frauds and the legitimacy of verbal contracts. The case underscored the significance of unambiguous concurrence and the necessity for mutual assent between involved parties. The court’s interpretation of the spoken agreement in this scenario could exert influence over how the court gauges the existence and specifics of the alleged arrangement between Kante and the defendants.

Amidst the intricate legal landscape, Walt Disney Productions v. Air Pirates[5] contributes an understanding of the fair use defense, particularly concerning parodies. The court enunciated parameters for assessing fair use, including its impact on the market for the copyrighted work. Should the defendants assert a fair use defense for their utilization of Kante’s work, this case might supply guidance in determining whether such usage qualifies as equitable within the contextual circumstances.

Collectively, within the intricate tangle of legal intricacies pertaining to the Bosko Kante v. Dua Lipa et al. case, these seminal case precedents present invaluable insights into the interpretation of copyright law, fair use, contract formation, and enforcement. The court’s contemplation of these cases stands to contribute to a refined analysis of the allegations concerning copyright infringement and contract breach, illuminating the multifaceted interaction between legal doctrines and the ever-evolving dynamics of the music industry.

Implications for the Music Industry

A. Precedent Setting and Industry Practices, the importance of written agreements: The outcome of Bosko Kante v. Dua Lipa et al. could set a precedent for future cases involving disputes over collaboration, copyright, and contractual obligations in the music industry. The case highlights the need for artists, producers, and musicians to adopt clear and comprehensive agreements that define rights, responsibilities, and potential avenues for future exploitation. Such agreements would not only mitigate legal risks but also foster a more transparent and equitable creative environment.

One key takeaway from this case is the critical role of well-drafted written agreements in the music industry. Collaborators, session musicians, and artists are strongly advised to formalize their arrangements through written contracts. These agreements should outline ownership rights, royalty-sharing mechanisms, and provisions concerning the use of works in various contexts, such as remixes or adaptations.

B. Balancing Creativity and Legal Protections: The dispute underscores the delicate balance between artistic creativity and legal protections. As technology enables unprecedented musical innovation, artists must be cognizant of the legal implications of incorporating novel elements into their works. Clear agreements between collaborators and proper attribution can help mitigate the risk of disputes and ensure that all contributors are appropriately recognized and compensated.

C. Future Collaborations and Agreements: The case serves as a cautionary tale for artists engaging in collaborations and remixes. It highlights the potential pitfalls of failing to secure proper permissions and adhere to the terms of agreements. Future collaborations should emphasize comprehensive written agreements that address ownership, use, and potential future remixes, thereby reducing the risk of disputes and legal entanglements.


The case’s implications for the music industry are far-reaching, emphasizing the importance of well-drafted, comprehensive agreements that clearly define ownership, usage rights, compensation, and potential future exploitations. The dispute underscores the need for collaboration agreements, detailing each party’s contributions, rights, and obligations, potentially involving principles of agency and partnership law, as well as industry norms.

In conclusion, the Bosko Kante v. Dua Lipa et al. case encapsulates the intricate interplay of copyright law and contract principles within the contemporary music landscape. The application of Title 17 of the United States Code, UCC provisions, and common law contract principles underscores the complexity of this dispute. As the music industry continues to evolve, the outcome of this case could potentially set a precedent, shaping future collaborations and reinforcing the critical role of well-defined agreements in navigating the legal intricacies of musical creation and collaboration.

[1] Arnstein v. Porter (154 F.2d 464, 2d Cir. 1946)

[2] Bright Tunes Music Corp. v. Harrisongs Music, Ltd. (420 F. Supp. 177, S.D.N.Y. 1976)

[3] Mistubishi Digital Electronics America, Inc. v. Discovery Communications, Inc. (951 F. Supp. 716, C.D. Cal. 1996)

[4] Leonard v. Stemtech Health Sciences, Inc. (858 F.3d 1291, 11th Cir. 2017)

[5] Walt Disney Productions v. Air Pirates (581 F.2d 751, 9th Cir. 1978)

About Amisha Mittal 13 Articles
Amisha Mittal is a final-year law student pursuing a BA. LLB. (Hons) at Jindal Global Law School, Haryana. Her interest areas align with Intellectual Property Law, Competition law and other technology related laws. She shares a passion for research and writing and with a strong interest in academia, she aspires to contribute to the legal scholarship in these areas.

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