Kesha vs. Dr. Luke
In light of the recent #MeToo movement and the Grammy Awards, I wanted to take this post as time to discuss an important case that occurs at the heart of the music industry, between a producer and a musician. For the past almost four years, pop artist Kesha has been locked into a kind of legal battle with her long-time producer Dr. Luke (Lukasz Sebastian Gottwald) and his record label. It would be surprising to me if anyone had not heard of this longstanding controversy, but I thought it was important to bring to light especially when many people are criticizing the world of music for not addressing movements regarding sexual assault.
This whole ordeal began in October of 2014 with a civil lawsuit against Dr. Luke, with Kesha claiming that he had abused her for about ten years, the duration of their professional relationship. Specifically, she said that she experienced “sexual assault and battery, sexual harassment, gender violence, unfair business practices, and infliction of emotional distress.” from her producer. In addition, Kesha’s mother alleged that Dr. Luke had pressured her into developing an eating disorder and as a result seeking treatment in 2013. The singer alleged a disturbing instance where she unknowingly took date rape drugs and then woke up in Dr. Luke’s bed the next morning. The goal of this lawsuit was to free Kesha from her contract with her producer’s company, Kasz Money. This contract obligated her to record six albums with the label, and prohibited her form releasing any music outside of it. Whether or not she was lying, Kesha did say in a deposition in 2011 that Dr. Luke had never made any sexual advances toward her, which complicates the issue.
Unfortunately, a New York court denied an injunction that would allow Kesha to record with other labels and producers while the legal proceedings were being decided. The California court that heard her case decided that it would be moved to a court in New York due to contract requirements. After that happened, Kesha dropper her California suit, but filed a counterclaim in New York. Dr. Luke is still proceeding with his countersuit of defamation, and both sides are reportedly collecting evidence at this point in preparation for their arguments.
Meanwhile, Kesha is making music as a means to deal with the stress of having to stay in contract with Dr. Luke and come to terms with her past. Despite these terms, she has managed to make what many are calling the best music of her career with her new album “Rainbow”, which she sings about being empowered and fighting through the past three years. The hit track “Praying” seems like a direct attack on Dr. Luke with the lines ” I’ll bring thunder, I’ll bring rain, oh/When I’m finished, they won’t even know your name”, among others. She did, however, release this album under Dr. Luke’s record label, even though Sony Music claims that they kept the process of making the album as safe as possible for her.
This situation is a perfect example of what the #MeToo means to so many women. Kesha felt like her producer would use his power to silence her claims, as he is currently trying to do by countering her suit. That’s exactly what this movement is about, men that can leverage their position over a woman to force her to suppress claims of sexual assault. People that say that women who accuse men of assaulting them only want attention should always be weary when saying these things, but they can’t say this about Kesha especially. She didn’t need to accuse Dr. Luke in order to gain fame; her musical talent is certainly enough to provide fame and notoriety. As with many victims, they don’t come forward immediately after the incident occurs because they are scared of not being believed.
I am left with questions about what the court system can do with a civil suit against Dr. Luke. Since this is not a criminal lawsuit, what good would it do to convict him of sexual assault (if there is enough evidence)? Would this release her from her contract? Also, why was the injunction to make music under a different label denied?