A Legal Breakdown of the Kesha Trial

Posted: by Henderson

I was perturbed by the recent news out of the Kesha trial. I think everyone was. A woman, who has accused someone of rape, is not being believed and it is damaging her career, a disgustingly common chain of events. Usually, I stray away from discussing musician’s personal matters on here. I leave that to TMZ. But in this case, I think I have some legal knowledge that’ll shine some light on this situation, and give those who are upset a better understanding of exactly what they’re upset about. So I thought I’d write up a little something, and it turned into this.

I’ll start this off by saying I’m a lawyer. Specifically, I’m a music contract lawyer, so this Kesha case is exactly the kind of stuff that I work with. Now I haven’t fully studied this case, I haven’t read all the court documents, and to be honest I just started following the trial recently, so I want to make it clear that this is not my official legal opinion or anything like it. These are just my thoughts and feelings based upon my understanding of the situation, and the law. Now let me break down a few things that the average music fan might not know, and explain why it all matters.

#1 The court won’t force Kesha to work with Dr. Luke (the man who may have raped her). The court probably won’t even make her work under her Sony contract at all. This is because forced service contracts are not allowed. Not for you, not for me, and certainly not for a woman who is accusing her employer of a felony. Long ago, the US legal system decided it was bad for business (and unfair) to force people to work for people they hated. However, this does not mean the court wont punish Kesha for breaching a contract and/or lean on her until she agrees to work with Sony again. But it does mean they can’t force her to work with Sony or Dr. Luke, which is a good thing.

#2 If the court isn’t going to force her to work the contract, then what was this whole case about? Is it still a big deal? YES, but maybe not for the reason you might think.

Kesha is trying to get out of her contract with Sony that requires her to release a bunch of albums with Dr. Luke. Kesha has alleged serious misconduct by Dr. Luke including rape, so she desperately wants to get out of her deal, and release music elsewhere. Sony has offered to let her to use a different producer if she sticks to the contract, but Kesha (many would say rightfully) does not want to work with Sony or Dr. Luke ever again, and fears that after these allegations Sony won’t promote her music. She wants out. The fight has ended up in court, so the judge now has to make a decision. Like I said, the judge can’t force Kesha to complete the contract. So the choice is either force Kesha to pay damages (probably a cut of future releases), or let Kesha go from the deal free and clear. But that decision is not what really matters, and it’s not the decision that has become such a big deal recently.

#3 The key to what just happened, and all the uproar, and why it all matters is TIME. Despite what you might have seen on TV, legal cases take forever, like 4 years, sometimes longer. Sony can use this time to its advantage (as large corporations usually do), Kesha on the other hand, can’t afford to wait. Do you know how long 4 years is in pop music? Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ was big 4 years ago. Remember that? The recent decision that has caused everyone to become so upset was the result of Kesha asking for an injunction on her contract, which means she asked to release music on other labels while the trial is going on. The judge ruled no.

This is why Kesha and her fans, and fans of treating women like human beings, are so pissed. What is Kesha supposed to do for the next 4 years or more? She is left with the choice of not releasing any music for YEARS, or admitting defeat and releasing it on her old contract. This is not an ideal situation, and it is a very drastic decision for the judge to make. The judge could have granted the injunction, let Kesha release some music, and then down the line decided Sony wins and gets a big cut of those releases, but the judge didn’t do that.

You know how in sports coaches aren’t allowed to say anything bad about the referees or the league gets mad? A similar rule exists for lawyers and judges, so I will just say I strongly disagree with the denial of this injunction. Luckily, denial of an injunction is able to be appealed immediately, so Kesha will have one last shot to escape this contract without destroying her career. I wish her the best of luck.