The XX Factor

A Judge Quashed Kesha’s Case Against Sony and Dr. Luke—But Their Legal Battles Aren’t Over

Kesha at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 19, 2013.

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Kesha lost her protracted court battle against producer Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald on Wednesday, when a judge denied her request to be released from a six-album deal with Sony and Dr. Luke. The judge said that Sony never pressured her to work exclusively with Dr. Luke and that Kesha acted unreasonably by rejecting Sony’s offers to pair her with other producers. Earlier this week, Kesha posted on Instagram that Sony had offered to release her from her contract, but only if she’d publicly recant her allegations of Dr. Luke’s rape and abuse.

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New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich also dismissed Kesha’s allegations that Dr. Luke’s sexual abuse constituted gender-based violence. “Every rape is not a gender-motivated hate crime,” Kornreich wrote in her decision on Wednesday. She also ruled that most of Kesha’s allegations did not provide sufficient cause to void a contract under New York law, and that much of Dr. Luke’s alleged sex crimes occurred outside the jurisdiction of her court or outside the statute of limitations. In February, Kornreich had rejected Kesha’s request for a preliminary injunction that would put Kesha’s contract on hold until the case was settled. Kesha appealed that ruling, and Wednesday’s verdict, which refuted her claims that she was a “slave” to Sony, quashed her appeal.

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Kesha’s contract forbids her from recording and promoting any more music until she makes at least three more albums with Dr. Luke and Kemosabe Records, his Sony-owned label. She refuses to work with him because she alleges that he emotionally abused her for years, drugged and raped her, and threatened the safety of her and her family. As Kornreich said in her ruling, Sony has offered to honor Kesha’s contract by pairing her with other producers, but that music might still be released under Kemosabe Records—and at any rate, any profits from those records would still go into the pot shared by Dr. Luke and the label that has supported him throughout this ordeal. And if Kesha’s Instagram post is accurate, Sony’s offers might have come with conditions she wasn’t willing to accept.

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Dr. Luke’s breach-of-contract suit against Kesha is still pending, as is Kesha’s civil suit against Dr. Luke for sexual battery, which she filed in California. Last month, reports that Sony would drop Dr. Luke from its roster surfaced. The producer is one of the most reliable and profitable hit-makers in the music industry, so that would be a huge financial bet for Sony to make. Then again, it’s already facing a publicity crisis that could be hard to shake: Pop superstars like Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and Adele have offered Kesha public statements of belief and, in Swift’s case, financial backing. Miley Cyrus and Kelly Clarkson, both of whom have worked with Dr. Luke, have also voiced their support for the singer. Kesha has said that she’d rather torpedo her career than go forward with a contract that supports her alleged rapist. The court may have sided with Dr. Luke, but the community of musicians he’ll need to collaborate with if he and Sony want any future hits is increasingly siding against him.

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