Legal Traps and Misogyny: More Analysis of Kesha’s Battle

Is Kesha not recording because she doesn’t want to, or because she’s paralyzed by fear of being attacked again?

It might not matter, because that might not be the most important question at hand in her ongoing legal dispute with Dr. Luke.

As noted by an increasing number of publications, an underlying problem is that Kesha is a woman working to make a name and career for herself in an industry still dominated by men. Dr. Luke, most articles note, continues to produce and work with a number of pop stars, among them R. Kelly, Flo Rida and Ciara.

When Judge Shirley Kornreich of the New York Supreme Court ruled last week to deny Kesha an injunction in her case, which would have allowed her to record with another label until this matter is settled, she affirmed that Kesha remains under Sony’s contract.

“Essentially, she is being held captive by her contract, forced to continue working (or choosing not to work, as she has done), for a label whose owner may have raped her and assaulted her,” Andy Hermann writes in LA Weekly.

“There’s a pretty straightforward and ugly reason why, in this equation, Dr. Luke gets to keep working and Kesha does not: They are not fighting this battle on a level playing field,” Hermann continues. “The music industry is still overwhelmingly dominated by men like Dr. Luke (an estimated 95 percent of all producers and engineers are male) and his mostly male employers at Sony Music Entertainment. Don’t believe it? Just look at this month’s Billboard Power 100 list, which purports to rank the most influential people in the music industry. According to that list, the people who control Kesha’s creative output are overwhelmingly male.”

Sony has a number of executives on the list, including CEO Doug Morris at number 4 and Global Digital Business and US Sales President Dennis Kooker sharing the number 44 spot with two other Sony execs, along with three executives from Sony/ATV Publishing, the branch of Sony responsible for Dr. Luke and Kesha’s songwriting work and the chairman of Vevo, which controls her videos. There are exactly two women from Sony on the list.

Citing Judge Kornreich’s ruling, which took at face value Sony’s promise to allow Kesha to record with another producer in the company’s stable, Hermann said Kesha didn’t provide any evidence of abuse that would warrant releasing her from her contract. “If you’re still wondering why no one seems to care about whatever ‘irreparable harm’ this is all doing to Kesha’s career, the Billboard Power 100 list might offers some answers,” Hermann concludes.

In a separate article, Bloomberg points out that Kesha dropped out of high school and gave up a potential scholarship to start recording under Dr. Luke’s guidance and strong advice. Now, she’s involved with at least three companies into which he has ties: Prescription Songs LLC, Kasz Money Inc. and Kemosabe Records LLC, his imprint under Sony’s label. As for the questions about why Kesha didn’t go to the authorities in 2005, when the alleged abuse began, Bloomberg’s Polly Mosendz points to statistics from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, that 68% of sexual assaults aren’t reported.

As for the legal case, Sony’s hands might be tied as much as Kesha’s at this juncture, Mosendz says. If Kornreich had granted the injunction, it could have set a “troubling precedent” for the industry at large. “You’re asking for the court to decimate a contract, which was heavily negotiated and signed by two parties, in an industry where these kinds of contracts are typical,” the judge said. “It’s no different from all the other contracts which require a certain number of records and require exclusivity and have copyrights.”

While Kesha’s attorney, Mark Geragos, argued that Sony would not work to promote Kesha’s songs should she refuse to work with Dr. Luke, Kornerich instead took the company’s promise at face value. Even when Geragos pointed out that any other producer who could work on Kesha’s album would have to answer to Dr. Luke, Kornerich remained resolute. Further, two of Dr. Luke’s companies would profit from Kesha’s work, even if he weren’t directly involved. All of these arguments were rejected out of hand by Kornreich, who labeled them nothing more than “conclusions and speculations.”

But, even if Sony wins the legal dispute, the damage has been done. Speaking with Mosendz, Ronn Torossian, a chief executive officer for a public relations firm specializing in crisis management, labeled the whole ordeal “absolutely a PR nightmare” for Sony.


Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.