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On Friday, pop star Kesha Rose Sebert and songwriter-producer Dr. Luke (Lukasz Gottwald) squared off in a New York courtroom in a contentious dispute, in which the sanctity of a recording contract is being examined in light of sexual abuse allegations. Dr. Luke has come out ahead.
Kesha, who alleges that Dr. Luke drugged and raped her a decade ago and has committed ongoing abuse, has been pushing for a preliminary injunction that would allow her to record outside of Dr. Luke’s purview. Her attorneys have told the judge that the careers of pop stars are short and that if an injunction doesn’t issue, the irreparable harm she faces is a ruined career. After being briefed on the arguments, New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich was skeptical.
“You’re asking the court to decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated and typical for the industry,” said the judge to Mark Geragos, the attorney for Kesha, who sat in the back row with her mother Pebe and looked solemn.
Kornreich heard arguments that Dr. Luke had invested a substantial amount — $60 million in her career — and that the producer had agreed to allow her to record without his involvement. The judge told Geragos that “decimates your argument,” adding, “My instinct is to do the commercially reasonable thing.”
Her decision to deny an injunction came amid planned protests from Kesha fans outside the courtroom.
Dr. Luke’s own position is that Kesha and her reps are attempting to extort him in order to extricate her from contracts with Luke’s Kemosabe Records label, housed under Sony. He denies the sexual abuse and attributes her action to becoming frustrated by a stalled career. His attorneys, led by Christine Lepera, have argued that Kesha’s claims came too late and are too vague, the harm is overstated and that she’s not likely to prevail on her discrimination, harassment and hate crime claims nor beat his ones for allegedly breaching a contract and committing defamation.
At today’s hearing, Justice Kornreich’s role was sorting through this mess, deciding not only whether an injunction should issue, but also whether to grant either of the dueling motions to dismiss. Kornreich spoke of the lack of medical evidence such as hospital records to corroborate the assault allegations. “I don’t understand why I have to take the extraordinary measure of granting an injunction,” she said.
Geragos acknowledged that Kesha has always been amenable to recording with Sony, separate from Luke’s company, but also that the offer from the other side amounted to an “illusory promise.” Kesha may have to accept Dr. Luke’s offer as the only available option for her at the moment.
The judge didn’t make a ruling on the motions to dismiss, reserving that decision for a later time, but did point out some vagueness in Kesha’s counterclaims and may give her an opportunity to file an amended version.
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