We might remember Kesha as the pop artiste who gave us hits like “Tick Tock” and “Animal”, or even for the dollar sign in her name, but what many of us have neglected to talk about is her year-long legal battle against her music producer, who allegedly raped, drugged and physically assaulted her multiple times. The 28-year old singer filed the lawsuit against her music producer Dr Luke in 2014, with charges of not just sexual assault and battery, but also drug coercion and physical abuse.
While the long-drawn legal battle goes on, during which her music career suffered irreparably and Dr Luke attempted to discredit her with a counter-lawsuit, a New York Supreme Court finally ruled on an injunction February 19 that Kesha must remain contractually bound to Sony and Kosambe, the record label which Dr Luke created and runs. The grounds on which this judgement was passed was that this was the “commercially reasonable thing to do”, as stated by Judge Shirley Kornreich.
While the law will take its course, the message this sends out is that according to her and in the eyes of the law, the corporation, the record label came first, and a musical contract had more value than a woman’s bodily safety. Kesha’s injunction request read, in part, “I know I cannot work with Dr. Luke. I physically cannot. I don’t feel safe in any way.”
One must wonder how “commercially reasonable” is it to ignore a woman’s plea to be free from a work environment where she would be in constant proximity with someone who allegedly inflicted significant damage upon her physical and mental health. Sony has invested $60 million in her career, is what their attorneys reminded the judge—weighing a woman’s emotional and physical violation against her economic viability.
Kesha’s lawyers maintain Sony had sided with Dr. Luke the entire time, and all but stated that they won’t promote her music if she tried to record music by herself, beyond the influence of the label. Meanwhile, Dr. Luke still denies that any sexual assault actually happened, saying that Kesha made it up to lash out at him for her “stalled career.” His lawyers called her claims “too late” and “too vague,” and not nearly strong enough to stand up against the counter-argument about her breach of contract and defamation.
Judge Kornreich sided with Dr. Luke, questioning why there seemed to be a lack of medical evidence regarding the alleged sexual assault. Given its absence, Kornreich said, “I don’t understand why I have to take the extraordinary measure of granting an injunction”, while Kesha was seen seated at the back of the courtroom, quietly sobbing (a truly harrowing picture). The judge tried to “appease” both parties by asking Sony to keep Kesha’s work separate from Dr. Luke. But is that really enough, considering her work will still be creatively affiliated to her alleged assaulter?
This case once again throws up the larger problems endemic to society today—of discrediting the claims and witnesses of assault survivors when it is anyway hard for them to talk about it, and even more so when a big corporation is involved.