The Kesha vs. Dr. Luke Lawsuit Breakdown (updated 2/19)

Attorney, The Creekmore Law Firm PC

If you haven’t been paying attention, you may have missed the struggle raging over the artist formerly known as Ke$ha, now the face of the #freeKesha movement.

A simplification of the backstage war being waged over the popstar’s music goes like this: Kesha filed a lawsuit against Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, claiming he abused the young popstar.  Her 28-page complaint alleged that the older man drugged her, sexually abused her, threatened to take away her publishing rights, and verbally abused her to the point of an eating disorder. The suit, filed in a civil court rather than the subject of a criminal investigation, seeks to terminate her contract with Gottwald and his label, Kemosabe Records.  Gottwald, in turn, claims that the suit is a way for Kesha to wiggle out of contracts obligating her to his label.  The popstar is obligated to six albums; two have been completed.  On top of this allegation, Gottwald has filed a countersuit for defamation and extortion (among several others). After a brief stint in California courts, the case was moved to New York due to a forum selection clause.  Several of Gottwald’s claims against the star and her management have been dismissed.

The contracts in question are so lethal due to an exclusivity clause, which Gottwald vows to enforce. Kesha’s attorneys have filed a declaratory judgment action to have those contracts ruled invalid.  While they wait for a ruling on the declaratory judgment, they’ve also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, arguing irreparable harm if Kesha is not allowed to continue making music immediately—with anyone other than Gottwald.

In a memorandum supporting an injunction barring Gottwald from enforcing his exclusivity clause (whew!) her attorneys state: “Kesha is at an impasse…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.”

If a court doesn’t grant the injunction Kesha’s team is asking for, she’ll be forced to either 1) give up her career, or 2) produce the remaining albums with the man she alleges raped her. And the clock is ticking.  Her attorneys pled “Kesha now faces an abysmal decision: Work with her alleged abuser…or idly and passively wait as her career tick-tocks away.”

Unable to produce new albums, the singer has taken to recording songs like “Amazing Grace” and releasing them on YouTube as a way to thank her fans for their support.

The fate of Kesha’s career hangs in the balance, and will be decided this week. A New York Supreme Court judge will rule on the injunction February 19, 2016.



On Friday. February 19, New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich was denied the star’s motion for an injunction. “You’re asking the court to decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated and typical for the industry,” the judge told Mark Geragos,  Kesha’s attorney.  Gottwald’s attorney noted that he had agreed to allow the young star to record without his involvement. The judge told Geragos that his agreement to step aside “decimates your argument.” “My instinct is to do the commercially reasonable thing” the judge noted.



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