Kanye West: Copycat Or Creative Genius?
May 25, 2016 (Mimesis Law) – Kanye West has made the headlines again this week, facing a $2.5 million copyright infringement claim filed by Hungarian composer and rocker Gabor Presser in the Southern District Court of New York. West released the track New Slaves in 2013 on his Yeezus album, which Presser claims makes unauthorized use of his 1969 track Gyöngyhajú lány (which translates to Pearls in her Hair), written while part of a band called Omega. Have a listen to the last third of New Slaves, which sounds like an unapologetic carbon copy of Presser’s track.
Presser says that Gyöngyhajú lány was “one of the most beloved pop songs ever in Hungary and across Eastern Europe” and that he had no idea West was using his song until just before Yeezus was released when he was contacted by West’s lawyer asking that a deal be agreed between West and Presser “as soon as possible.” New Slaves, using the Presser track had already been used as promotional material for the Yeezus release at this stage of the ‘negotiations’. Presser agreed to the idea, but on condition that a formal agreement be put in place at a later date. West proceeded to send Presser an advance of $10,000 by cheque, which Presser never cashed. Presser now claims that West “knowingly and intentionally misappropriated” his composition and that after this theft was discovered, West “refused to deal fairly” with him.
West faced a similar situation not too long ago when Ricky Spicer, of the 1960s group The Ponderosa Twins Plus One, sued for unauthorized sampling of the 1971 track Bound in West’s track Bound 2, also on the Yeezus album. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount around May 2015. It’s an unfortunate trend that perhaps reveals Kanye West as less of creative genius (self-proclaimed) and more of a literal embodiment of Picasso’s old saying that “good artists copy, great artists steal.”