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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 March 2019

Kanye West is forbidden from ever retiring according to his 2003 contract

The rapper is currently trying to 'obtain his freedom' from EMI in a new lawsuit, which says he has been 'deprived of his breathing period'

On March 1, Kanye West filed papers seeking to 'obtain his freedom' his EMI contract. AP 
On March 1, Kanye West filed papers seeking to 'obtain his freedom' his EMI contract. AP 

Kanye West has filed legal papers, claiming he is "entitled to his freedom" from an open-ended EMI contract that dates back to 2003 – a year before he released debut album, The College Dropout.

According to legal documents, which were filed in Los Angeles on March 1, West's original EMI contract 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.)"

The key phrase being: "At no time during the Term will you seek to retire as a songwriter, recording artist or producer or take any extended hiatus".

The "term" in the contract is undefined, which is a common tactic when signing new artists: West's lawsuit is claiming that he has been "labouring" for EMI since 2003, and according to the California Labor Code, all personal service contracts should be limited to seven years.

West has been working under this EMI contract for 16 years.

The complaint goes on to say that the contract is "lopsided" in favour of EMI, and that the record company has "unjustly earned millions of dollars by tethering Mr West's songwriting efforts for an unlawful term."

"It makes no difference under section 2855 whether the contract is otherwise fair, or whether the employer has fulfilled its end of the bargain," the complaint continues.

"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."

In the suit, West is seeking the right to sign to other record labels and also intends to get full creative rights to his back catalogue, which would stop EMI from profiting from them going forward.

Updated: March 5, 2019 11:20 AM

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