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Kanye West owes Donna Summer’s estate for unauthorized interpolation of “I Feel Love.” (Op-Ed)

Kanye West owes Donna Summer’s estate for unauthorized interpolation of “I Feel Love.” (Op-Ed)

The estate of the late Donna Summer has sued Kanye West and Ty Dolla $ign for deciding “they would simply steal” her song “I Feel Love,” and using “it without permission” on their album Vultures. The duo had asked for permission to use the sample in January, but this request was denied. The song containing the interpolation, “Good (Don’t Die),” has been removed from streaming services following the lawsuit.

The Summer’s estate claims the sample was denied due to “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[’s] estate sought to protect the valuable intellectual property … from any public association with the negative publicity surrounding West.”

West is no stranger to controversy. The rapper has not apologized for his egregious antisemitic remarks that caused outrage and the end of his brand deal with Adidas. The Summer’s estate did not want to be associated with such virulent hate, and rightfully so. Donna Summer has left a legacy of love, perseverance, and joy; these ideals do not line up with West’s offensive, hateful comments aimed at minorities.

After the first denial, West and Ty Dolla $ign then asked Universal Music Group and were denied once more. The lawsuit adds “In the face of these repeated denials, West and co-defendants attempted to get around this roadblock by instead making an unauthorized 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 recognizable portions of I Feel Love using a singer soundalike to Summer, with slight changes to the lyrics (also done without permission).”

It is one thing to use a sample without permission, but to be expressly denied permission twice and continue to create a virtually indistinguishable interpolation is cowardly, illegal, and incredibly selfish. Considering that the song has already been pulled from streaming services and the commercial success of Vultures, what did West gain from this besides more controversy? If West cannot take two denials and abide by the wishes of Summer’s family, then he should be forced to compensate the Summer’s estate accordingly.

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