Tik Tok on the Ke$ha Appeal

April 2016

Artistes, recorded music

by Leeza Panayiotou LLB(Hons)


As readers will remember, in February 2016 the New York Supreme Court refused to grant a preliminary injunction to the singer Ke$ha (real name Kesha Rose Sebert) that would enable her to record outside of her contract with Kemosabe Records, an imprint label of Sony. As a result of the Court’s decision, Ke$ha was left under contract with Kemosabe to produce a further 6 albums[1].  Now, Ke$ha has filed an Appeal, claiming that the Court’s decision is akin to allowing modern day slavery.


By way of background, Kesha signed to Kemosabe when she was 18 years old and “her 2009 single Tik Tok is the biggest selling single ever by a female solo artist”[2] and Kemosabe label boss Dr. Luke (real name Lukasz Gottwald), remains “one of the most successful songwriters and producers of the century so far, working on music for stars including Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears and Katy Perry”[3].


Ke$ha claimed in her 2014 lawsuit that she had grounds to be released from her record contract as Dr. Luke had sexually assaulted her, harassed her and intended to inflict emotional distress on her throughout her career[4]. Dr. Luke then countered with suits for breach of contract[5], extortion and defamation[6]. Both parties continued civil legal battles (it should be noted no criminal charges were bought against Dr. Luke) seemingly culminated in the New York Supreme Court denying Ke$ha’s requested injunction, on the basis that the Court would not “decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated and typical for the industry”[7]. Underpinning the Court’s decision, the Judge Justice Shirley Kornreich asserted that no irreparable harm had been done to Ke$ha’s career (despite her not having put any music out since 2013[8]) and that Ke$ha could freely record under Kemosabe without any interference from Dr. Luke.


In spite of the Court’s decision however, the issue developed a great deal of interest around the world; the hashtag #freekesha trended on twitter, Adele used her acceptance speech of one of her many Brit Awards to publicly back Ke$ha on Live TV and stars like Lady Gaga[9], Demi Levato, Ariana Grande and Lena Dunham all publically gave their support to Ke$ha[10] with Taylor Swift even donating $250,000.00 to Ke$ha[11]. While people took to the streets to protest for Ke$ha, Sony waded in to say terminating Ke$ha’s contract with Dr Luke[12] was out of their hands.


Ke$ha’s lawyer, Mr Geragos has stated the Appeal is being bought on the grounds that “the Court erred in basing its decision on its finding that Kesha could record without interference from Gottwald. Although it recognized that ‘slavery was done away with a long time ago’ and that ‘[y]ou can’t force someone to work … in a situation in which they don’t want to work,’ the Court’s ruling requiring Kesha to work for Gottwald’s companies, purportedly without his involvement, does just that”[13].


In response, Dr. Luke’s lawyer Ms Lepera has commented that “the Court repeatedly stated Kesha was already free to record without Dr. Luke, and that she had not presented any facts supporting her claims…because all the evidence – including Kesha’s own sworn testimony – show her allegations are false. Her attorneys can continue manufacturing even more false and outrageous claims, but the fact remains that her time would be better spent in a studio than wasting time having her lawyer and mother spin lies in the media[14].


While this matter rumbles on, people are becoming increasingly divided; there are just as strong accusations being made regarding the validity of Ke$ha’s account of matters and her motives behind the suit as there are accusations made against Dr. Luke, that have led to the rumours that Sony want to drop him in light of the public scrutiny of the case[15]. While these matters may never be resolved by the Court in light of the type of suit that was bought, they do go to the heart of the case.


However, at present, the way the Appeal will be decided remains to be seen.

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/kesha-appeal-dr-luke-record-deal_uk_56f139d6e4b0cc1ede8cb251

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/mar/22/kesha-appeals-court-ruling-dr-luke

[3] ibid

[4] ibid

[5] ibid

[6] http://www.music-news.com/news/UK/96312/Dr-Luke-responds-to-Kesha-s-appeal-request

[7] http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/kesha-appeals-judges-denial-dr-877143

[8] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/kesha-launches-appeal-against-judge-decision-dr-luke-sony-a6945741.html

[9] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/kesha-appeal-dr-luke-record-deal_uk_56f139d6e4b0cc1ede8cb251

[10] http://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/feb/26/kesha-dr-luke-contract-sony-protest

[11] ibid

[12] ibid

[13] http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/kesha-appeals-judges-denial-dr-877143

[14] http://www.music-news.com/news/UK/96312/Dr-Luke-responds-to-Kesha-s-appeal-request

[15] http://uk.complex.com/music/2016/03/kesha-files-appeal-in-court-ruling-dr-luke-injunction-request

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