Kanye West Settles Lawsuit That Sought His "Freedom"

Kanye West during 2006 Coachella -Getty-H 2019
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Kanye West has come to a settlement with EMI, according to court papers, bringing an end to a lawsuit where the hip-hop superstar attempted to engineer contractual free agency.

In suing the publisher, West turned to California's statute limiting personal services contracts to no more than seven years as the basis to void his 2003 deal plus extensions. He wasn't the first musician to do so. From Olivia Newton-John in the 1980s to Avenged Sevenfold a few years ago, California's "seven-year rule" has become a favored weapon for those locked into long-term deals. Most often, "freedom" isn't really the true end; rather, the suit becomes the impetus to force a renegotiation for better royalty terms.

That appears to be the situation for West as well, although a notice of settlement is silent about what EMI gave West to arrive at peace with him.

Nevertheless, in nine months of legal action, West's suit made quite some noise, particularly after THR pointed to the aspect of his contract that forbid retirement.

The legal action also hinted at a developing conundrum that will surely be tested in future cases.

West first filed in California state court — and attempted to do so under some cloak and dagger with a complaint that was extensively redacted. EMI then had the case removed to federal court, plus filed its own lawsuit against West in New York with the claim that the musician had made a "flagrant attempt to forum shop his way around" provision of the contract that provided New York with exclusive jurisdiction.

This set up a battle over whether parties could contract around California's attempt to curtail contractual servitude. At a time when states are doing more on the contractual front — think about NDA nullifications in the #metoo era — the tug-of-war over jurisdiction and choice-of-law portends significant litigation.

In the meantime, a New York court had denied EMI's first attempt at a preliminary injunction to stop West from prosecuting in California, though it was quite possible that a California court would have ordered West to try his claims in New York.

Recently, West replaced his legal team — moving from Quinn Emanuel to Bird Marella, who got to an agreement in principle to settle the action. A finalized settlement is expected to come in the next 90 days.