From NY Daily

Why are we freeing Kesha?

The opinions expressed in this piece are that of the author and do not reflect those of the Tertangala or the University of Wollongong.

If you live on social media, as I do, you will have come across the #FreeKesha movement that has become ubiquitous in the last few days – and with good reason. It refers to a lawsuit filed in October of 2014 by Ms Kesha Rose Sebert (best known as pop singer Kesha) who is seeking to void her six-record contract with Sony so that she no longer has any professional ties to her producer and former mentor Lukasz Gottwald (aka Dr Luke). The suit drawn up by her lawyer, Mark Geragos, alleges that Dr. Luke drugged and raped her, as well as abusing her physically, verbally and mentally, causing her to develop an eating disorder which threatened her life and, for which, she had to be hospitalised in January of 2014.

Dr. Luke and Kesha together at the ASCAP Pop Music Awards 2011. Image from

Dr. Luke immediately filed a countersuit, claiming Kesha and her mother – with whom she writes songs for Dr. Luke’s company – were in breach of their contract. Dr Luke’s case went to court earlier this month but was dismissed by the judge. Many hoped this would prove a positive omen for Kesha’s case which was due to be tried in late January, but was postponed due to bad weather.
The case was finally heard in court on February 19. The Manhattan Supreme Court judge, Shirley Kornreich, refused to place an injunction on Kesha’s contract with Sony because she believed it would “decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated and typical for the industry.”

Kesha leaves courthouse after the Judge’s ruling in Sony’s favour. Image from Daily Mail UK

Executive VP of business and legal affairs at RCA records contributed an affidavit stating that dissolution of Kesha’s contract would damage Sony’s reputation irreparably and send a message to Sony’s other artists that they, too, can treat their contracts as fluid. He believed it would also leave Sony vulnerable to poaching from other recording companies.
“My instinct is to do the commercially reasonable thing,” Judge Kornreich stated.
Additionally, Sony has to honour their contract with Dr Luke, which is understood to be quite lucrative for them since he has written and produced music for many high profile artists such as Kelly Clarkson and Katy Perry. A win for Kesha would destabilise their contractual hold on their assets.

Many artists have come out in support of Kesha, including ones who have previously worked with Dr. Luke, in a series of heart-squeezing messages on social media. Taylor Swift has donated $250, 000 to Kesha’s legal costs, Lady Gaga has posed with Kesha in a beautiful post on Instagram and singer Adele dedicated her Brit Awards acceptance speech to Kesha.

Free Kesha

A post shared by Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) on

Some speculate the pressure from social media and other entertainers will push Sony to re-examine the situation. Sony have publicly stated that she is free to work with other producers, but Kesha’s attorney says these statements are “illusory”, and Kesha doubts the company will promote music made with anyone other than Dr. Luke. Such an arrangement would not completely sever her professional relationship with her alleged aggressor as she is signed to his song writing company, recording company and publishing company. He still effectively owns her art.
It’s all very confusing but the relationship between Sony, Dr. Luke and Kesha works hence: Dr Luke owns songs penned by Kesha, her album and, her performances.

Dr Luke has no interest in releasing Kesha from her professional obligation to him and made the following statement in response to the pro-Kesha sentiment of social media:
“I didn’t rape Kesha and I have never had sex with her. Kesha and I were friends for many years and she was like my little sister.”

A video of Kesha making sworn statements that Dr. Luke never made sexual advances towards her surfaced on Tuesday, in a supposed attempt by Dr. Luke’s camp to discredit Kesha’s claims of abuse. This video was used in the case by Dr. Luke’s legal team. Kesha’s lawyer, however, stated in the court documents and in statements made to the public that Kesha was repeatedly threatened by Dr. Luke so that she was afraid to speak up about the truth.

“I think they should have settled it privately long ago,” music attorney, Harvey Geller said,  “A public spectacle is not good for either side.”
Whilst devastating, Judge Kornreich’s decision to protect the interest of a multi-billion dollar corporation comes as little surprise. Kesha’s fans, critics and fellow entertainers are not taking this one lying down.

Kesha supporters outside Sony HQ in New York on Feb. 26. Image from

After the surge of support for Kesha following the court case, Kesha made a statement on her Facebook page:
“I’m so, so beyond humbled and thankful for all of the support I’ve
received from everyone. Words cannot really express the emotions I’ve gone through reading and seeing how amazing everyone has been to me. I can’t believe that so many people all over the world took the time to show me support and love. Other entertainers who knowingly put their own careers at stake by supporting me, I will be forever grateful.” She said.

Kesha’s full Facebook post. Image from

Indeed all of her supporters – especially those within the entertainment industry – will continue to watch this story progress as the eventual outcome may have a considerable impact on the treatment of ‘assets’ (aka musicians and artists) in the future.