In January, it was reported that Kanye had filed a bunch of lawsuits against his publishing company EMI along with Roc-A-Fella and Universal Music. The aim of the lawsuits was to gain more control over his career by exiting his publishing deal and claiming some past royalties.
But Kanye is going to have a hard time in the case, all due to the one sided contract he signed just before releasing his debut album College Dropout in 2004. One of the provisions in his publishing agreement that was done before he was a star, Kanye is literally barred from retiring and must continue to put out music with major labels. It states:
“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. 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.)”
Much of the details in the lawsuit that Kanye had filed back in January was redacted but thanks to EMI’s reply, a lot more about the case has been revealed (via THR). One of the biggest disputes in the case is the controversial clause in the agreement where Kanye is not even allowed to take an extended hiatus. ‘Ye is trying to “obtain his freedom” from publishing and record label contracts by citing California Labor Code section 2855, which limits personal service contracts to a maximum of seven years. You can read the full court document here.
It’s the law that provided Gone with the Wind actress Olivia de Havilland her freedom from Warner Bros. in the 1940s. The case has been cited as a precedent in Kanye’s lawsuit against EMI and others.
Kanye’s lawyers are arguing that the period of 7 years finished in 2010 and it has now been more than double that time that EMI has continued to enforce its rights over Kanye’s music. “It makes no difference under section 2855 whether the contract is otherwise fair, or whether the employer has fulfilled its end of the bargain,” states the complaint. “It matters only whether the services began more than seven years ago. There can be no dispute that this happened here. The seven-year period ended under this contract on October 1, 2010. For more than eight years thereafter — more than double the maximum seven-year period California law allows — EMI has enforced rights in violation of California law, depriving Mr. West of the ‘breathing period’ that California law mandates,” the argument further reads.
Aside from trying to attain his freedom from the contract and no longer be enslaved, Kanye also wants the judge to declare him the owner of the publishing works and release the lost royalties due to him.