Kanye’s back in the news, but this time it’s not over any controversial tweets, outbursts, or new music – but because a Hungarian musician refused $10,000 from the rapper for a sample on his track New Slaves.
Gabor Presser received an email shortly before Kanye West’s 2013 album Yeezus was released. The email gave him 24 hours to respond stating West “would like to work out a deal with you as soon as possible”. When Presser didn’t respond he received a $10,000 cheque upon the insistence that he license his music for Kanye – he never cashed the cheque.
Presser is now taking the rapper, producer, fashion icon, and part-time delusional egotist to court over the sample of his band Omega’s 1969 song ‘Gyongyhaju Lany’. The song is described by Presser as “one of the most beloved pop songs ever in Hungary and across eastern Europe”.
The song features prominently for the second half of New Slaves as instrumental backing. Presser’s complaint said that: “Kanye West knowingly and intentionally misappropriated (the) plaintiff’s composition. After his theft was discovered, defendants refused to deal fairly with (the) plaintiff.”
It’s not uncommon for copyright disputes in the music industry, in fact it’s incredibly common. Just recently Led Zeppelin have been trialled over the opening melody to their famed track Stairway To Heaven. In hip-hop, a genre rife in samples of other music, it’s especially common – however normally an artist of West’s caliber would appropriate a license rather than just releasing it anyway.
As devastating as it may be the number of unreleased tracks out there because copyright licenses couldn’t be acquired we don’t think the correct answer is to go for it, send a cheque, cross your fingers, hope for the best. Presser is looking for at least $2.5 million in damages for copyright infringement.