Hungarian singer sues West for using his song

Kanye West
Kanye West

NEW YORK • Kanye West is being sued by a prominent Hungarian rock singer and composer, who accused the American hip-hop star of sampling one of his best-known compositions without permission for the 2013 song New Slaves.

In a complaint filed late last Friday in the United States District Court in Manhattan, Gabor Presser said one-third of New Slaves, which appeared on the No. 1 album Yeezus, is an unauthorised copy of Gyongyhaju Lany, a 1969 song he wrote when he was in the band Omega.

He described his song, which roughly translates to English as Pearls In Her Hair, as "one of the most beloved pop songs ever in Hungary and across Eastern Europe".

He is seeking at least US$2.5 million (S$3.5 million) in damages for copyright infringement.

Lawyers for West and co-defendant Sony/ATV Music Publishing, a joint venture between Sony and Michael Jackson's estate, did not respond to requests for comment.

Presser said he had no inkling that his song was being used until West's lawyer e-mailed him soon after marketing began, indicating that West "would like to work out a deal with you as soon as possible" and giving him 24 hours to respond.

West's lawyers later sent him a US$10,000 cheque and insisted that he grant a licence. But he never cashed the cheque, the complaint said.

The complaint said: "Kanye West knowingly and intentionally misappropriated the plaintiff's composition. After his theft was discovered, the defendants refused to deal fairly with the plaintiff."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2016, with the headline 'Hungarian singer sues West for using his song'. Print Edition | Subscribe