Kanye West’s King Crimson Sample Prompts New Lawsuit
Universal Music Group is being sued for underpaid streaming royalties from Kanye West's 2010 song, "Power," which samples King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man."
According to Variety, the lawsuit was recently filed by Declan Colgan Music Ltd (DCM), which owns the mechanical rights to Crimson's classic song, alleging that West did not properly license "Schizoid Man" before he uploaded his song to YouTube and included it on his 2010 album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. DCM struck an agreement with UMG and West when it originally learned of the matter: West could keep the sample in return for a 5.33 percent royalty on each copy of "Power" that was sold. Under these terms, DCM, like West himself, is entitled to a royalty payment from the sales of the song.
According to DCM's lawsuit, UMG “has failed, and continues to fail, to comply with its royalty accounting obligations in respect of one mode of exploitation, namely the making available of the 'Power' recording to consumers through so-called ‘streaming’ services." DCM argues that, per the 2010 agreement, it should be compensated as if those "streams" were physical CD sales, not the lower royalty percentage that digital streams yield, as UMG has been doing.
DCM is now requesting both full payment of all sums due and interest, as well as a court ruling in regards to physical versus digital streaming royalties. UMG has not responded to the suit.
Listen to King Crimson's '21st Century Schizoid Man'
Listen to Kanye West's 'Power'
Disputes relating to King Crimson's catalog and its usage have been going on for several years. In 2012, guitarist Robert Fripp took issue with UMG after it acquired several labels, which, Fripp believed, led to unauthorized releases under his name. He cited West's use of "21st Century Schizoid Man" as one such example of King Crimson's music being used without the band's permission.
"Going back to early King Crimson, the remarkable explosion of the creative impulse came from these young men who didn’t know what they were doing, yet were able to do it," Fripp said at the time. "What has changed in 40 years? It’s very simple: Forty years ago there was a market economy. Today there is a market society – today everything, including ethics, has a price."