Gábor Presser is a Hungarian citizen residing in Budapest. Presser is a living legend in his homeland, and the song "Gyöngyhajú Lány" has been one of the most beloved and enduring songs in Hungary and across Easter Europe since Presser wrote it in 1969. I know this because Mr. Presser's lawyers said so in the complaint they filed against Kanye West in the Southern District of New York alleging copyright infringement.
Mr. Presser is a member of the band Omega, a Hungarian rock group. "Gyöngyhajú Lány" is their biggest song, according to their Wikipedia page and Mr. Presser's complaint. Their Wikipedia page also says that the Scorpions covered the song and called it "White Dove" despite the fact that their Wikipedia page also says that "Gyöngyhajú Lány" means "Pearls in Her Hair," while Google Translate turns it into "Pearl-haired girl" which reminds me of an old movie.
But I digress. Here's the Omega version of the song.
Mr. West sampled this song for almost a minute and a half at the end of "New Slaves," which appears on the album "Yeezus." Here it is--skip to 2:53 if you just want to hear the sample at issue.
The real (and NSFW) video for the song is available on Vimeo, but the last minute and twenty-five seconds have, interestingly, been cut off. Even more interestingly, Kanye West sampled a 40-some-odd-year-old Hungarian rock ballad?!?
The complaint details how Mr. West approached Mr. Presser for the rights to the sample after "New Slaves" was released, and how they have tried to work something out but failed. The complaint also details how "New Slaves" received tons of positive critical reviews, including a quote from the New York Daily News stating that "New Slaves" "features the most cool, and obscure, sample on the disc, from early ’70s Hungarian prog-rock group Omega." The most cool! Grammar! I also recall a Grantland article by Rembert Browne in which he describes how he felt the first time he heard the switch to this sample on "New Slaves" and how he wishes he could experience that feeling again and regrets that he can't.
So this honestly appears to be a pretty significant sample.
Accordingly, this seems like a cut and dry case of infringement, especially given Mr. West's ex post request for a license, but if we know anything around here it's that the little guy always loses and Mr. Presser is the littlest guy in this fact pattern. Also in this fact pattern is co-defendant Sony, and you know what happens to old guys who get cranky when Sony busts their loops.
I expect Mr. West to take a page from Ghostface Killah's playbook.
Not necessarily that page. I expect him to sit back and let Sony do the heavy lifting. I also expect this case to settle because no one in their right mind wants to defend Kanye West's deposition.
I'll let you know how this pans out.