The legal battle between pop singer Kesha and her former mentor, Dr. Luke, one of the industry’s top hitmakers, has sparked an outpouring of support for the star on Twitter. Rallying behind the #FreeKesha social media campaign, a number of female musicians, including Lady Gaga, Lorde, Miley Cyrus, Fiona Apple, Ariana Grande and Kelly Clarkson, have voiced their support for her in recent days. Kesha (whose full name is Kesha Rose Sebert) first sued Dr. Luke (whose real name is Lukasz Gottwald) in California in October 2014, accusing him of using drugs and alcohol to commit sexual assault against her after she signed with his label at age 18 and using his power over her career to keep her silent.
Much of the outpouring of support came after a judge in State Supreme Court in Manhattan ruled that Kesha could not be released from her recording contract with Dr. Luke and Sony Music Entertainment while the case against Dr. Luke is being tried. Her lawyers had filed a motion for preliminary injunction that would block Sony and Dr. Luke from pursuing damages if she released music outside of her contract. In the motion, her lawyers wrote, “Kesha Rose Sebert wants nothing more than to be able to record an album. Her only condition is that she be allowed to record with a record label that is not affiliated with someone who has emotionally and sexually abused her.”
Mark Geragos, a lawyer for Kesha, said that her career is “at a standstill” because of her refusal to record with Dr. Luke. Her contract with his publishing company, Prescription Songs, and label, Kemosabe Records, a Sony imprint, requires that he produce at least six songs on each of her albums. Kesha has not released an album since 2012. She appeared on the Dr. Luke-produced Pitbull single “Timber” the following year, which went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
While Justice Shirley Werner Kornreich denied the motion, saying “You’re asking the court to decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated and typical for the industry,” Sony indicated at the hearing that the label would be open to having Kesha record outside of Dr. Luke’s direct purview. Christine Lepera, a lawyer for Dr. Luke, said in a statement on Monday, “Kesha is already ‘free’ to record and release music without working with Dr. Luke as a producer if she doesn’t want to. Any claim that she isn’t ‘free’ is a myth.”
Dr. Luke filed his own lawsuit against Kesha in New York, also in October 2014, claiming defamation and breach of contract. Ms. Lepera stated, “As Dr. Luke has said repeatedly, the allegations against him are outright lies that have been advanced to extort a contract renegotiation and money. Kesha and her counsel have cavalierly subjected Dr. Luke and his family to trial by Twitter, using a vicious smear campaign to ruin his reputation for financial gain while failing to support their claims.” Both parties are seeking unspecified damages.