Universal Music Group is facing a lawsuit over the King Crimson sample in Kanye West’s “Power.”
The song samples King Crimson’s track “21st Century Schizoid Man,” with the progressive rock group claiming that UMG has been underpaying its streaming royalties, according to Variety. Declan Colgan Music Ltd, which owns the song’s original version, filed the lawsuit in the UK high court in March.
West didn’t license the sample before sharing “Power” to YouTube in 2010, which has amassed nearly 134 million views, the lawsuit states. The song later appeared on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. At the time, DCM asked UMG, Ye, and his production company, Rock the World to sign a deal that said the sample would have a 5.33% royalty return when a copy of “Power” was sold or “otherwise exploited.”
DCM now alleges that 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 [r]ecording to consumers through so-called ‘streaming’ services.”
Now, they want their streaming royalties to be equivalent to physical CD sales, rather than the percentage of what platforms like Spotify payout per stream. Royalties per stream are lower than CD sales.
DCM wants to be paid the difference in addition to interest—and to change the licensing agreement to reflect this moving forward.
Complex reached out to reps for Kanye for comment.
In a statement posted to Facebook, King Crimson’s Robert Fripp wrote, “There is a longer story to be told, and likely to astound innocents and decent, ordinary people who believe that one is paid equitably for their work, and on the appointed payday.” He noted that the band’s attorney is the same one who won Ed Sheeran’s recent “Shape of You” copyright case.