Donna Summers’ Estate, Kanye West Settle Illegal Sample Use Lawsuit

Donna Summersestate has reached a settlement with Kanye West over his unauthorized use of “I Feel Love.” Rolling Stone reports that the two parties came to a “global settlement” on the matter regarding what the family described as “blatant theft” of the icon’s IP. A status report was filed on Wednesday (May 15) in a Los Angeles federal court and written confirmation was received from all parties involved to resolve the copyright infringement claim officially, which the Donna Summers estate initially filed in February. 

The late singer’s estate lawyer, Stanton L. Stein, penned a statement regarding the settlement and what can be expected from it moving forward. “Plaintiff anticipates that the final settlement agreement can be executed shortly, and soon thereafter, the parties will be in a position to file a stipulation for dismissal of the action in its entirety,” the statement reads. “In the unlikely event, the parties are unable to conclude the settlement by June 14, 2024, the plaintiff intends to diligently prosecute the action against all defendants. As such, plaintiff requests that dismissal not be entered at this time.”

Ty Dolla $ign and Kanye West sampled her disco hit for their song “Good (Don’t Die),” a track off of their Vultures Part 1 album. Shortly after its release, the Donna Summers estate filed a copyright infringement lawsuit, which ultimately ordered the song be removed from streaming services. 

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The settlement makes it unclear whether the song will return to DSPs. Around this time, Donna’s widower Bruce Sudano told Rolling Stone that he planned to fight for Summer’s catalog, saying, “I intend to protect Donna’s copyright.” In the 16-page legal document, Sudano accused Ty and Kanye of “arrogantly and unilaterally” choosing to “simply steal” the song. 

Sudano’s copyright suit claimed that they initially sought out approval from the estate but were “explicitly denied.” When explaining why they were denied, the musician pointed at West’s previous controversies, including his anti-semitic remarks, as one of several examples. The estate was adamant that they “wanted no association with West’s controversial history.” But that didn’t stop Ye and co. from using the sample. 

“In the face of this rejection, defendants arrogantly and unilaterally decided they would simply steal ‘I Feel Love’ and use it without permission,” the suit reads. 

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Ye infamously had artist J. Rey Soul interpolate the song using the same melody, cadence, and feel of Summer’s classic hit while swapping out a few lyrics. The lawsuit claimed the move was made “knowing they had tried and failed to secure legal permission.” Later, the suit claimed that Ye and Ty’s “infringement was willful,” which the estate felt entitled Summer’s heirs to “maximum damages.”

“This lawsuit is 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,” the legal document read.