Kanye West’s Lawsuit Says EMI Contract Won’t Let Him Retire
UPDATE: Kanye West's legal battle with EMI Publishing is far from over.
According to a Billboard report published on Dec. 23, EMI has asked a judge to reopened their legal case against West over a contractual dispute because both parties could not reach an agreement on a final settlement. In September 2019, both parties had "an agreement in principle" to resolve the case and a deadline of Dec. 27 to reopen it if good cause exists.
A few days before the deadline, attorneys for EMI sent a letter to the judge stating that they haven't reached agreement with West. "Unfortunately, as of today’s date, the parties have been unable to finalize the terms of a settlement agreement, or to finally resolve related issues on which a settlement agreement would be conditioned," reads the letter. "As a result, good cause exists, and EMI hereby applies, to reopen the Action."
There's no word on when the case will be retried again.
UPDATE: On Thurs., March 7, TMZ reported that EMI is suing Kanye West after the rapper filed a lawsuit to try to get out of his deal with the publishing company. The crux of Kanye's argument is that L.A. laws dictate that a contract can't go on for more than seven years. However, the contract Kanye signed was guided by New York regulations, so Kanye's point doesn't apply.
EMI also claims that the contract led to Kanye being paid millions of dollars. The company also rejects Kanye's claims that the contract was one designed for his personal services rather than his employment.
Now, EMI wants Kanye the court to rule Kanye's EMI contract valid.
Earlier this year, Kanye West filed a lawsuit against his publisher, EMI Publishing, in an attempt to get out of his contract on the basis that he has fulfilled all of his obligations. At first, the lawsuit was heavily redacted, but now the suit has been made available in its entirety and it appears to paint a clear picture of the problems the rapper's had with EMI.
In a copy of the lawsuit, which was obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, we can read a portion of Kanye's EMI contract. That excerpt essentially claims that Kanye is prohibited from retiring from making music.
"You (Mr. West) hereby represent and warrant that to [EMI] that You will, throughout the Term as extended by this Modification, remain actively involved in writing, recording and producing Compositions and Major Label Albums, as Your principle occupation," reads a portion of Kanye's EMI contract quoted for his lawsuit complaint. "At no time during the Term will you seek to retire as a songwriter, recording artist or producer or take any extended hiatus during which you are not actively pursuing Your musical career in the same basic manner as You have pursued such career to date. (The preceding representation shall not be deemed to prevent You from taking a vacation of limited duration.)"
West is arguing against these exact terms, saying that they go against California Labor Code section 2855, which states that personal service contracts can go for no more than seven years. Since he signed this deal in 2003, West says he's done more than his seven years and should be free to go. However, this isn't quite black and white, because a judge has to determine whether this is a case about his employment—in which his argument would be valid—or about his intellectual property.
It seems EMI foresaw this becoming a potential issue in the future, as they included a disclaimer in his contract. West outlines this disclaimer in his lawsuit, saying that EMI states that "for purposes of California law," these deals don't "constitute contracts for any of [West's] personal services." They instead wrote that West was required to "deliver" to EMI his ownership interest in the songs he writes.
West is looking to "obtain his freedom" from the publishing contract. Alhough he's not the first to cite section 2855 for his argument, his lawsuit is somewhat different than most cases and therefore could make it a copyright case—which would take it from state court to federal court.
West is not only looking to get out of the deal and be able to sign new deals with other publishers and labels, but he also says that EMI owes him money and is seeking a declaration of ownership of all the works he delivered to them after 2010. EMI has attempted to take this matter federal court based on this request.
As THR notes, federal courts have "exclusive jurisdiction" over copyright law, and on Friday (March 1), EMI filed a notice of removal, which would move the case from the state's hands and into the federal court.
"The rights to, ownership interest in, and exploitation of copyrightable musical compositions are precisely the subject matter of the Copyright Act," EMI's legal team wrote in the notice.
XXL has reached out to Kanye's reps for comment. You can read the full legal documents from his complaint here.
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