Universal Music Group is facing a lawsuit over Kanye West’s 2010 song “Power” and its use of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” as a sample, Variety reports. Declan Colgan Music, owner of mechanical rights to King Crimson’s classic prog song, claims that Universal hasn’t been paying the right amount from streaming royalties that they earned from Kanye’s track. DCM has filed a lawsuit in the U.K. High Court last month.
The report further explains that the lawsuit mentions Kanye’s original use of the sample was without a license. The track was uploaded on YouTube in 2010 and it eventually found its place on the rapper’s album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” Declan Colgan Music found out about the infringement but settled a deal with UMG and Kanye’s production company Rock the World. The agreement was that 5.33% of royalties that “Power” earns would go to the original rights holder. So, in short, UMG should pay DCM all the royalties on the same terms that Kanye West receives from the song. At the time of the agreement, “the royalty figure for a streaming track was equivalent to that of a track on a physical CD,” Variety explains.
DCM’s lawsuit, however, states that UMG “has failed, and continues to fail” to respect the original royalty payments agreement. The issue comes down to streaming royalties. Obviously, the way we consume music has changed a lot since 2010 after the spread and growth of streaming services. The lawsuit claims that UMG should be paying for the “Power” streams according to the original 2010 contract or “in respect of one mode of exploitation.” What this means in the DCM vs. UMG case states that the aforementioned 5.33% of royalties from streaming should also respect the original agreement and be paid as if they were on a physical CD copy of Kanye’s “Power.” And DCM is now requesting payments for all unpaid sums and interest. As Variety explains, “they also want the court to make a declaration setting out the correct basis upon which to account for streaming royalties.”
King Crimson mastermind Robert Fripp also shared an official statement on the matter through his Facebook profile. He explains:
“This dispute has been dragging on for several years, unnecessarily IMO and I suggest the SOP for majors when confronted with their various failings. Regrettably, two of the original KC members (Greg and Ian) have died while the dispute was underway. 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 also added:
“Meanwhile, and interesting factoid: the barrister acting for us is Ian Mill QC of Blackstone Chambers who just won Ed Sheeran’s case her[e] in the UK and seen off the charge of plagiarism levelled against Ed.”
“LAW360: The amount that UMG paid under the licensee agreement was miscalculated, according to the suit, and King Crimson has asked the court for a proper accounting of the fees due.”
This is a developing story and, as Fripp pointed out, it’s been dragging on for a while. If it’s been “several years” as he explains, it’s likely that they’ve been discussing streaming royalty payment amount not long after signing the contract over a decade ago. This is a developing story and we’ll update you if anything happens.