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Pop music has a little problem… plagiarism

(ETX Daily Up) – While disputes over song plagiarism are nothing new, they were usually settled behind the scenes. Things have changed a lot in the era of social networks and streaming platforms. Accusations of plagiarism and the resulting lawsuits have multiplied in recent years. Decryption.

This phenomenon spares no one. The proof with Dua Lipa. The British singer has recently been under threat of two high profile and expensive lawsuits for her track “Levitating”. Songwriters L. Russell Brown and Sandy Linzer accuse him of plagiarizing two of their songs, “Wiggle and Giggle All Night” and “Don Diablo.” They claim that the opening melody of “Levitating” is a “copy” of those in their compositions. This part of the song is particularly important because it helped it go viral on TikTok, as stated in the official complaint from L. Russell Brown and Sandy Linzer seen by Billboard.

The plaintiffs attest that Dua Lipa has admitted in the past to “deliberately imitating earlier eras” to create the retro sound she’s been known for since her second album, “Future Nostalgia.” DaBaby, who appears in “Levitating,” and the Warner Music Group are also named in the lawsuit by L. Russell Brown and Sandy Linzer.

The two songwriters aren’t the only ones seeking damages from Dua Lipa for her hit, “Levitating.” American reggae band Artikal Sound System has also taken legal action against the 26-year-old singer. He accuses her of copying their 2017 track, “Live Your Life”, for his own track. The two songs are said to be so similar that it’s “highly unlikely that ‘Levitating’ was created independently,” according to Artikal Sound System. The Warner Music group, DaBaby and all those involved in the creation of Dua Lipa’s hit are also named in the group’s complaint.

At a time when thousands of new songs are released each year, the similarities between songs are many. But these cases of blatant reminiscence don’t always make it to court…except in the case of Ed Sheeran. The English musician is in a quandary over the copyrights of his most listened to track, “Shape of You”. Sami Switch and Ross O’Donoghue say they noticed similarities between their 2015 track “Oh Why” and Ed Sheeran’s.

Artificial intelligence to the rescue

This is not the first time that the English singer has been suspected of plagiarism. He was sued for similar reasons in 2016 for his song “Photograph”, and two years later for “Thinking Out Loud”. He thus joins the long list of artists implicated in cases of plagiarism, including Katy Perry, Led Zeppelin, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams. Faced with the scale of the phenomenon, the giants of the music industry are turning to artificial intelligence to determine with precision when the tribute turns into a pale copy. Spotify has been working for a few months on an algorithm that would allow musicians to discover if their latest compositions have harmonic similarities with other existing songs.

This invention would make it possible to comb through scores embellished with rhythmic and melodic indications, in order to detect whether they include elements of other pieces hosted on the Spotify platform. The algorithm would tell the songwriter if their song is at risk of possibly being sued for plagiarism. A link to the piece resembling the creation analyzed by the artificial intelligence could also be included in order to facilitate the work of rewriting.

But would a plagiarism detector be enough to stem this scourge of pop music? Not necessarily. This is why Damien Riehl and Noah Rubin developed in 2020 an algorithm exploring all possible melodic combinations over a 12 beat octave. That’s 68.7 billion pop-sounding melodies. Once recorded on a physical medium, such as a hard disk, these sequences of notes are considered protected by copyright.

In order to protect artists who would unknowingly compose a tune similar to one of these 68.7 billion melodies, Damien Riehl and Noah Rubin have posted them on the Internet Archive site along with the code of the algorithm which composed them. They have also used a Creative Commons Zero license, whereby they relinquish their copyrights. Enough to save many artists from long lawsuits, with millions of dollars in damages at the end…

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