Kanye West Sued by Donna Summer’s Estate Over Song Sample

Arnold Jerocki/Getty Images
Arnold Jerocki/Getty Images

The estate of Donna Summer is suing Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, for copyright infringement, alleging the rapper engaged in a “blatant theft” of the legendary artist’s iconic 1977 song, “I Feel Love.”

Filed by Summer’s second husband and executor of her estate, Bruce Sudano, court documents allege that West, along with Ty Dolla $ign, requested permission to use a sample of the song on the track “Good (Don’t Die),” which features on their new collaborative Vultures 1 album.

The Summer estate “not only considered the immense commercial value of the ‘I Feel Love’ composition, but also the potential degradation to Summer’s legacy,” the filing states.

“West is known as a controversial public figure whose conduct has led numerous brands and business partners to disassociate from him.”

The lawsuit also claimed that “permission was explicitly denied” when an organization called “Ailen Music” reached out on behalf of West—and that “despite this denial, defendants shamelessly used instantly recognizable portions of Summer’s hit song.”

Summer’s estate “wanted no association with West’s controversial history and specifically rejected West’s proposed use.” Despite the denial, the suit claims, “Defendants arrogantly and unilaterally decided they would simply steal ‘I Feel Love’ and use it without permission.”

The suit goes on to suggest that on “Good (Don’t Die),” the pair “re-recorded almost verbatim the key, memorable portions of Summer’s iconic song, used it as the hook for their own song, and released it to the public knowing they had tried and failed to secure legal permission from its rightful owners and had no legal right to do so.”

Summer’s estate is asking for “compensatory damages, maximum statutory damages, attorneys’ fees, and disgorgement of any profits earned by West and his CoDefendants from their unauthorized use of one of Summer’s and, indeed, one of dance music’s most influential and valuable songs.”

An attorney for Ye could not immediately be reached. An attorney for Summer’s estate told The Daily Beast that “we are allowing the complaint to speak for itself at this point” and suggested the case is more than simply “a sampling case.”

“This lawsuit is about more than Defendants’ mere failure to pay the appropriate licensing fee for using another’s musical property,” the filing states. “It is also about the rights of artists to decide how their works are used and presented to the public, and the need to prevent anyone from simply stealing creative works when they cannot secure the right to use them legally. In this case, it is about protecting Donna Summer’s own musical legacy and one of popular music’s most influential and ground-breaking songs.”

Ye legally changed his name from Kanye West in 2021. Over the past two years the rapper has become known for his repeated antisemitic comments, which have lost him numerous partnerships and brand deals.

The album Vultures 1 recently earned a second week atop the Billboard 200 chart.

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