Kesha appeals decision in contract dispute, likening it to slavery

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Kesha or Ke$ha at the ASCAP Pop Awards 2011 Red Carpet event.

The legal battle over Kesha’s recording contract with the producer she has accused of raping and abusing her is moving forward.

Lawyers for the platinum-selling “Tik Tok” singer are appealing a New York Supreme Court judge’s decision in February holding Kesha to a contract with Lukasz Gottwald, the producer known as Dr. Luke. The decision sparked calls from the public and celebrities including Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson and Lena Dunham to #FreeKesha. Taylor Swift pledged to donate $250,000 to support her.

Justice Shirley Kornreich denied Kesha’s request for a preliminary injunction that would release her from a six-record deal, pending resolution of multiple claims. Kesha’s lawyers argued that as long as she is tied to Gottwald her career will suffer, while the damage to Gottwald and his recording companies will be minimal in comparison.

Korneich sided with Gottwald, whose lawyers said he has invested $60 million in her career and has agreed to let her record music without his involvement. Gottwald has denied the abuse, saying Kesha is extorting him to get out of her contracts with Kemosabe Records, his label under Sony. He has said she is taking out on him her frustration with a stalled career.

Korneich told Kesha’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, that he was “asking the court to decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated and typical for the industry.” (Geragos is a CNN legal contributor.)

In response, Kesha’s legal team said in court documents filed Saturday that Korneich erred in basing her decision on the finding that Kesha could record without Gottwald’s interference.

“Although (the court) recognized that ‘slavery was done away with a long time ago’ and that ‘(y)ou can’t force someone to work … in a situation in which they don’t want to work,’ the Court’s ruling requiring Kesha to work for Gottwald’s companies, purportedly without his involvement, does just that,” he alleged.

The court also erred in concluding there had been no showing of irreparable harm to Kesha, her lawyers claim. In support of her motion for a preliminary injunction, Kesha submitted affidavits from people in the music industry attesting to her claim “that a young pop star’s fame will fade quickly, and permanently, due to a loss of momentum.”

A lawyer for Gottwald declined to comment Tuesday on the latest filings.

The legal saga began in 2014, when Kesha sued Gottwald and his recording companies in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging sexual assault and battery, harassment, violation of California’s unfair business laws and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The claims are based on her allegations that Gottwald sexually, physically, and emotionally abused her during their 10-year relationship, starting when she was 18. Her lawsuit alleges that he once drugged and raped her, contributing to an eating disorder that led to a stint in rehab.

Gottwald had denied any claims of abuse or rape. After Korneich’s February ruling he said on Twitter that he did not rape Kesha and never had sex with her. He cited court proceedings in 2011 in which Kesha testified that the date rape never took place.

Gottwald brought the dispute cross-country by filing a lawsuit in New York Superior Court alleging defamation and breach of contract, claiming New York was the appropriate venue for claims related to their contracts. The California court stayed Kesha’s lawsuit pending resolution of the actions in New York, prompting Kesha to file counterclaims alleging sexual harassment, gender-based violation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Kesha is seeking undisclosed monetary damages and to be let out of her contracts.

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