Kanye West sued by estate of Donna Summer over ‘stealing’ I Feel Love

Estate of late star files lawsuit claiming rapper was denied sample for Vultures album, but tried to circumvent them with interpolation

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The estate of the late Donna Summer has filed a lawsuit against Kanye West and Ty Dolla $ign, alleging that the musicians “decided they would simply steal” her song I Feel Love, “and use it without permission” on their album Vultures.

The lawsuit is being brought by Bruce Sudano, Summer’s widower and executor of her estate. It states that the pair were not authorised to use I Feel Love for their song Good (Don’t Die), which has been removed from streaming services following an earlier complaint by the Summer estate.

The lawsuit states that West and Ty Dolla $ign requested to sample I Feel Love in January, before the release of Vultures on 10 February. The estate turned down the request, citing “the immense commercial value of the I Feel Love composition, but also the potential degradation to Summer’s legacy. 

West is known as a controversial public figure whose conduct has led numerous brands and business partners to disassociate from him … the Summer estate sought to protect the valuable intellectual property … from any public association with the negative publicity surrounding West” – a reference to how Adidas, Gap and others cut ties with West after he made antisemitic comments in 2022.

The lawsuit claims that West and Ty Dolla $ign then sought permission via Universal Music Group, but were again denied. It adds: “In the face of these repeated denials, West and co-defendants attempted to get around this roadblock by instead making an unauthorised interpolation. West and his co-defendants used the song’s iconic melody as the hook for their infringing song and essentially re-recorded almost verbatim key, instantly recognisable portions of I Feel Love using a singer soundalike to Summer, with slight changes to the lyrics (also done without permission).”

The plaintiffs claim the suit is “about more than defendants’ mere failure to pay the appropriate licensing fee for using another’s musical property. 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.”

West and Ty Dolla $ign have not commented on the lawsuit. The Guardian has requested comment via their press representative.

Vultures was beset with other issues prior to release. Ozzy Osbourne said he refused permission for West to sample Black Sabbath “because he is an antisemite and has caused untold heartache to many”; Nicki Minaj blocked the release of the song New Body which she featured on and which had previously leaked, saying: “Why would I put out a song that has been out for three years?” It was also frequently delayed from an initial 15 December release date.

Since its release, Vultures has been a commercial success, with the track Carnival currently the second-most popular song globally on Spotify.