On March 1, 2019, Kanye West (“West”) accused longtime publisher EMI records of “locking him” into a business arrangement that is barred by the California Labor Code which limits how long certain contractual relationships can last.
West sued EMI April Music Inc. and EMI Blackwood Music Inc. on January 25, 2019 in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming both corporations have violated Cal. Labor Code Section 2855, which limits the length of personal services contracts to a maximum of seven years.
West claims after he signed his first contract with EMI in October 2003, the company repeatedly extended that agreement beyond the seven-year limit, seeking to bypass California Labor Laws by including provisions in the extensions aimed at exempting the contracts from Section 2855.
“Mr. West has been working for EMI under the 2003 contracts for over 15 years. EMI has unjustly earned millions of dollars by tethering Mr. West's songwriting efforts for an unlawful term,” the complaint states, “He is entitled to his freedom.”
EMI has filed a notice that it is removing the case to California federal court. EMI cited the fact that West's companies and EMI are incorporated in different states, as well as the likelihood that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000- which meet diversity requirements that allow a defendant to remove a case to federal court- or in the alternative, EMI said West's case raises copyright questions that are the proper jurisdiction of the federal court.
West is represented by Aaron H. Perahia, John B. Quinn, Robert M. Schwartz and Rukayatu Tijani of Quinn Emmanuel Urquhard and Sullivan L.L.P.
EMI is represented by Robert A. Jacobs, Maura K. Gierl and Molly K. Wyler of Mannatt Phelps & Phillips LLP.
The case is Please Gimme My Publishing et al. v. EMI April Music Inc. et al., case number 2:19-cv-01527, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The case number for the Superior Court of California, Los Angeles, is not yet available.
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