Ye and Donna Summer’s Estate Reach Settlement in Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

Ye and Donna Summer’s Estate Reach Settlement in Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

 

On May 29, 2024, U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. of the Central District of California granted an extension for an order to show cause in a case filed by Donna Summer’s estate against rappers Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) and Ty Dolla $ign. The new deadline for the order to show cause is set for June 21, 2024. The delay is to allow the parties to consummate a resolution of the case.

The copyright infringement dispute arose when the estate of Donna Summers, the late legendary disco artist, sued the rappers and two of Ye’s record labels in late February 2024. According to the complaint, the artists copied certain elements of Summer’s 1977 hit “I Feel Love” in their song “Good (Don’t Die).” The plaintiffs’ attorney alleged that the defendants had re-recorded “almost verbatim” the key and hook of the song and released it to the public knowing that they had already tried and failed to secure legal permission to do so.

“I Feel Love” was released in July 1977 by Donna Summer and instantly reached the sixth spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Since then, the track has appeared on two of Summer’s compilation albums and is claimed to have inspired other artists. The song is widely recognized as one of the greatest hits in the dance music genre.

In early 2024, rappers Ty Dolla $ign and Ye sought clearance for their track “Good (Don’t Die)” multiple times, which sampled elements from “I Feel Love.” The Summer’s estate denied permission on January 31, 2024, but the defendants indicated that the song had already been completed and was being prepared for release. On February 3, 2024, the estate, along with Universal Music Enterprises, again rejected a clearance request. The Summer’s estate discovered a week later that the artists had released “Good (Don’t Die)” with a singer that sounded like Summer and otherwise made only minor lyric changes on their collaborative album “Vultures 1,” instead of “sampling” the Donna Summer song. In other words, Ye copied the Donna Summer song but did not “sample” it; meaning he did not simply duplicate it using technology; he basically re-recorded it. By the time the estate of Donna Summer discovered this, Ye had already accumulated millions of downloads and streams on Spotify and Apple Music, and live performances had garnered millions of views on YouTube. On February 14, 2024, the track was removed from streaming services.

Fortunately, it appears that the case is going to settle quickly; by having his song removed from the stream of commerce and likely paying a steep price, Ye did not get his way. According to the Summer estate, the parties have finalized a written settlement and are circulating execution copies for signature.

Summer’s estate is represented by Stanton L. Stein, Bennett A. Bigman, and Erica S. Kim of Russ August & Kabat.

Counsel information for defendants is unavailable.

The case is the Estate of Donna Summer Sudano d/b/a Sweet Summer Night Music v. Kanye Omari West et al., case number 2:24-cv-01586, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

* Lowe & Associates (“The Firm”) is a boutique entertainment and business law firm located in Beverly Hills, California. The firm has extensive experience handling cases involving copyright law, having provided top-quality legal services to its clients since 1991. The Firm is recognized for its many achievements, including successfully litigating many high-profile cases.

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