When I say the labels take advantage of their artists, I mean it in a purely economic sense. But interestingly enough, it appears as though the labels are physically taking advantage of their artists as well. Or at least Sony is, according to pop star Kesha. Kesha initiated a lawsuit against Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, music producer and label owner, whom she alleged drugged her, forced himself on her, and threatened to take away her publishing rights, among other things. The lawsuit, which was filed back in October of last year, was actually just put on pause because a clause in her label agreement with Luke’s Kemosabe Records label, which is housed under Sony, had a forum clause stating that disputes were to be handled in New York. In an attempt to get around the forum requirement and keep the lawsuit in California, Kesha named Sony as a co-defendant in the lawsuit. But to no avail…
Kesha believes Sony should be held liable for pretty much co-signing Dr. Luke’s sexual proclivities. The artist contends Sony has invested over $60 million in Dr. Luke due to his ability to develop pop artists and make top chart hits. Apparently, Luke is known for his sexually abusive conduct and Kesha asserts that Sony executives are well aware of this fact. She claims Sony failed to investigate further or take any corrective action against Dr. Luke, thereby ratifying his dreadful conduct. But Sony, just like all of the majors, is concerned with keeping their pockets full and maintaining their status. Guess they figured a little sexual and mental abuse was a small price to pay for the return they knew they would see.
Unfortunately, adding Sony as a co-defendant to the lawsuit did nothing to keep the case in California, as the California court stayed the proceeding and decided that the New York District Court has proper jurisdiction. Too bad she didn’t start with Sony in the original complaint. I don’t know that it would’ve made a difference as far as the court’s recent decision, but it would’ve made the allegations against them appear a little more founded. So it looks like now, Kesha will be the defendant and have to counterclaim with her same accusations in the suit she initiated in California. Too bad she didn’t just allege the sexual misconduct and worry about getting out of the contract after all of that was said and done. I can’t imagine the forum clause in her agreement would apply to allegations of solely sexual assault.
It’s definitely not hard to believe that labels are doing whatever is necessary to make sure the money keeps coming in and at the expense of their artists. But this is going too far. We’ve all heard that the entertainment industry is cut throat and sleazy and a lot of female artists have been preyed on in one way or another by industry folks, but it’s usually a little more hush-hush and easily swept under the rug. These labels are getting bold though: getting over on the artists, winning legal battles, making all the money and maybe feeling a little invincible.
Oooooooooor is this just a disgruntled artist doing whatever she can to get out of her contract. It wouldn’t be the first time a girl cried wolf for an ulterior motive. But then again, it’s so easy for others to look at it that way and do what is typical – blame the victim. Well, I would hope after this fiasco, Dr. Luke will let her gracefully bow out anyway. Because I mean, what would that relationship be like after all is said and done. My guess is, not very workable.
Lerae Funderburg, Esq. is the Managing Attorney at Funderburg Law, LLC, an Atlanta based entertainment law firm. Lerae has almost 10 years of experience in entertainment law in both music law and film law. As an entertainment lawyer and blogger, Lerae keeps her viewers and subscribers up to date with entertainment law news, especially in the areas of music, copyright law and trademark law. If you are local to Atlanta, call and set up a consultation! She would love to hear from you!