Some clarity could be coming in the legal battle between pop star Kesha Rose Sebert and songwriter-producer Dr. Luke (Lukasz Gottwald). That’s because on Friday, Kesha pushed for a preliminary injunction, meaning that a New York judge will soon have to make a determination if she is likely to succeed on the merits of a claim that her recording contracts are void.
The dispute erupted last October when Kesha claimed to have been the victim of rampant abuse by Dr. Luke, including an instance where he allegedly drugged and raped her. The producer filed his own claims against Kesha, painting the dispute as an attempt to extort him in order to extricate her from contracts with Luke’s Kemosabe Records label, housed under Sony.
Dr. Luke has so far prevailed in getting this dispute adjudicated in New York rather than California. Now comes the big action.
In court papers filed on Friday, Kesha’s attorney Mark Geragos tells the judge why a determination is needed soon.
“Until this Court rules on the declaratory judgment claim, Kesha is at an impasse,” states a memorandum supporting an injunction that would bar Dr. Luke from interfering with her signing with another label. “She cannot work with music producers, publishers, or record labels to release new music. With no new music to perform, Kesha cannot tour. Off the radio and stage and out of the spotlight, Kesha cannot sell merchandise, receive sponsorships, or get media attention. Her brand value has fallen, and unless the Court issues this injunction, Kesha will suffer irreparable harm, plummeting her career past the point of no return.”
In support, Kesha has submitted an affidavit from Jim Urie, who was president and CEO of Universal Music Group Distribution from 2003 until this past January. He agrees that without an injunction, her career is toast. “No mainstream distribution company will invest the money necessary to distribute songs for an artist who has fallen from the public eye, as is happening to Kesha at this very moment,” he says. “Accordingly, if Kesha cannot immediately resume recording and having her music promoted, marketed, and distributed by a major label, her career is effectively over.”
Kesha herself has submitted an affidavit that repeats her story of her decade-old relationship with Dr. Luke, plus adds some new allegations. They met after she turned 18. She says that on one occasion, they went to a party and she had drinks. Later, he allegedly gave her a “sober pill,” and Kesha says she woke up later in his bed.
In her latest affidavit, she also says that he “took credit for songs he didn’t write, for a television show he didn’t actually produce” and on one occasion after he allegedly decided Kesha wasn’t a good enough lyricist, he had will.i.am write a verse for her to sing. “I know I cannot work with Dr. Luke,” she says. “I physically cannot. I don’t feel safe in any way.”
“We are confident this motion will be denied because it is without merit,” says a spokesperson for Dr. Luke in a statement. “Kesha continues to make the same false claims of abuse against Dr. Luke she testified never happened under penalty of perjury. As with all pleadings in this case, her affidavit is vague and unsubstantiated, with pivotal details such as dates fudged, and notably fails to address her unequivocal prior sworn testimony to the contrary.”
Meanwhile, Sony is weighing in on the case for the first time. The company tells the judge it has been “caught in the crossfire.”
After Kesha sued Dr. Luke, she amended her claims to include the charge that Sony supported and ratified his behavior. She alleges that the music giant puts female artists “in physical danger by giving Dr. Luke full creative and business control.”
Sony and Kemosabe are demanding the dismissal of such claims, echoing Dr. Luke by calling it a “transparent and misguided attempt to renegotiate her contracts.”
In its papers, besides arguing that her claims provide no basis for corporate liability and would be time-barred nonetheless, Sony points to Kesha’s admission that Dr. Luke allegedly bullied her into silence.
“This admission — that Sebert never spoke of or reported the alleged misconduct — is fatal to each and every one of her claims against Sony and Kemosabe Records,” argues the dismissal motion. “In short, Sebert cannot have it both ways: She cannot claim that Gottwald intimidated her into silence, then — as an apparent afterthought — seek to hold Sony and Kemosabe Records liable for failing to act on conduct that she did not report.”
A spokesperson for Dr. Luke adds, “If Kesha now regrets her career being mired in legal proceedings, it’s entirely her making. It was Kesha who chose to file a lawsuit falsely alleging abuse to gain advantage in contract negotiations, and now she must accept the consequences of her improper actions. As long as she continues to stand by her false claims of abuse against Dr. Luke and remains in breach of her contracts, he will continue to protect his professional and personal reputation, as well as his contractual rights, in a court of law. He looks forward to obtaining judgments in his favor.”