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Kanye West Faces Lawsuit After Sampling Sermon in ‘Come to Life’

A Texas pastor has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Kanye West over a sample featured in the song “Come to Life.”

Bishop David P. Moten alleges that about 20% of the Donda single is lifted from a sermon he delivered at Victoria, Texas’ the Joy of the Lord Worship Center in 2011, according to the lawsuit filed Tuesday at the U.S. District Court in Dallas, Billboard reports.

A portion of Moten’s sermon — “My soul cries out Hallelujah and I thank God for saving me” — is heard at the beginning of “Come to Life,” with that excerpt sampled throughout the song. Moten claims that West and his team did not seek permission to use the sample prior to releasing it on Donda.

‘”Come to Life’ is approximately five minutes and 10 seconds (5:10) in length. Approximately one minute and 10 seconds (1:10) of this sound recording is sampled directly from Plaintiff’s sermon and appears to run on a loop underscoring the pre-chorus and chorus throughout the song in question,” the lawsuit states. “Consequently, twenty percent (20%) of the entire sound recording ‘Come to Life’ is comprised of unauthorized, unlicensed samples of the Sermon.”

The lawsuit seeks a trial by jury to determine punitive damages from West and co-defendants G.O.O.D. Music, Universal Music Group, and Def Jam Recordings. 

A lawyer for Moten and reps for West and UMG did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment.

“Defendants willfully and without the permission or consent of Plaintiff extensively sampled portions of the Sermon,” Moten’s lawsuit continued. “Over the span of several years, defendants have demonstrated an alarming pattern and practice of willfully and egregiously sampling sound recordings of others without consent or permission.”

This isn’t the first time a seemingly “fair use” sample has resulted in a lawsuit against Ye: In 2019, Ronald Oslin Bobb-Semple sued West and collaborators after his voice was sampled without permission on the Kids See Ghosts track “Freeee (Ghost Town Pt. 2).” A settlement in that lawsuit was reached in Jan. 2021.

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