Artist News Business News Labels & Publishers Legal Top Stories

Kanye West sued over uncleared sample on Donda 2

By | Published on Friday 1 July 2022

Kanye West - Donda 2 launch event

Kanye West has been sued over an allegedly uncleared sample in a track on his recent ‘Donda 2’ album. According to the publisher of the sampled song, West’s track ‘Flowers’ repeats the uncleared sample at least 22 times.

The sampled track is ‘Move Your Body’ by Marshall Jefferson, which is published by plaintiff Ultra International Music Publishing. And the use of the uncleared sample is, Ultra says in its lawsuit, “an unambiguous infringement of the copyright” in the song its controls.

Ultra’s legal filing also notes ramblings by West in recent years to the effect that he is a champion of artist rights. However, it then says, “contrary to his claimed interest in the proper compensation and fair treatment of all artists”, the rapper has not properly treated or compensated Jefferson, “whose work he sampled and exploited without authorisation or compensation in the creation of ‘Donda 2′”.

“Specifically”, it goes on, “West’s song ‘Flowers’ – reportedly written about his estranged wife, Kim Kardashian – directly samples an iconic song written by … Marshall Jefferson in 1986. That song, titled ‘Move Your Body’ and known as ‘the house music anthem’, is instantly recognisable; the unauthorised sample taken by West is repeated at least 22 times throughout ‘Flowers'”.

“West’s unauthorised use of ‘Move Your Body’ constitutes an unambiguous infringement of the copyright in the musical composition ‘Move Your Body'”, it then says, “and of course is a blatant exploitation of [Jefferson’s] work without permission and compensation. Manifesting the height of hypocrisy, West advocates for artists’ rights with one hand, yet has no shame in taking away rights from another artist with the other”.

The lawsuit also states: “During discussions with representatives for Mr Jefferson and UIMP, West and his representatives acknowledged that ‘Move Your Body’ was sampled in ‘Flowers’, and was done so without authorisation or payment to UIMP or Marshall Jefferson. Despite this acknowledgement, West has not ceased distribution of ‘Flowers'”.

With all that in mind, Ultra would like an injunction banning the distribution and exploitation of ‘Flowers’, plus lots of lovely damages, obviously.

‘Donda 2’, of course, was exclusively released via West’s own Stem Player device, which also allows users to remix the tracks. With that in mind the British company behind the player, Kano Computing, and its CEO, Alex Klein, are also named as defendants on the lawsuit.

But at least God’s not involved in this particular Kanye sample dispute. Two previous high profile sampling lawsuits involving the rapper related to religious snippets he had included in his music: a child reciting a prayer on ‘Life Of Pablo’ track ‘Ultralight Beam’, and a sermon being delivered by preacher David Paul Moten on ‘Come To Life’ on the first ‘Donda’ album.

This story is discussed on this edition of our Setlist podcast.