Kanye West, The House Music Anthem and a $150k lawsuit

The legal troubles of Kanye West keep mounting up. Fresh from Bishop David Paul Moten suing West over allegedly unauthorised use of a speech on the song “Come To Life”, Ultra International Music Publishing are now taking him to court for $150,000 over his apparent use of Marshall Jefferson’s “Move Your Body” on “Flowers”, another song from the Donda 2 album.

Music Business Worldwide have a copy of the 11-page document submitted by Ultra’s lawyers on their site. As far as Ears To The House can work out, their suit is based on a few things – the unauthorised use of the sample, the fact the stem was made available on West’s very own Stem Player, and the fact West seems to have admitted using the sample without permission but is apparently not doing anything about it.

Point 35 makes for particularly interesting reading in the court document…

“During discussions with representatives for [Marshall] Jefferson and Ultra International Music Publishing, West and his representatives acknowledged that ‘Move Your Body’ was sampled in ‘Flowers’ and was done so without authorization or payment to Ultra International Music Publishing or Marshall Jefferson. Despite this acknowledgement, West has not ceased distribution of “Flowers.”

Exactly how this case will be concluded isn’t clear – but from what we could see when we looked at past instances of West being sued for alleged copyright infringement, the majority of those issues were resolved out of court. One person who is very annoyed with this situation, however, is Marshall Jefferson himself.

Speaking to BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat, he said “I’ve been sampled thousands of times. There is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Getting done by another artist, a black artist, a fellow Chicagoan without acknowledgment is disappointing” – presumably in reference to the many other artists from the early days of house music who’ve received similar treatment.

But some people might be better off just staying quiet. See the latest post by Trax Records, who originally released the song…

It’s worth pointing out that since 2020, the label has been involved in legal action against Larry Heard and Robert Owens over allegations they’ve never been paid a single penny for several records they released via Trax back in the 1980s – the case is still ongoing, despite a failed attempt by Trax Records to have the case thrown out entirely.

Trax Records have also themselves been involved in a dispute with Marshall Jefferson himself over ownership of the song – this was resolved in 2019. Perhaps label boss Rachael Cain should take a vow of silence over other people’s fights in this instance…

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