Kanye “Slavery Is a Choice” West seems to be having struggles getting out of a binding situation of his own ... within his own industry.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Kanye filed a lawsuit against EMI (of Universal Music Group) in Los Angeles Superior Court in late January, in regard to his music publishing contract. Though Kanye’s complaint was redacted, the initial complaint (posted here) was made public following EMI’s dispute.
The contract reads as follows:
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.)
That’s right: Kanye isn’t allowed to retire under the terms of his contract. As such, Kanye’s complaint is an attempt to “obtain his freedom,” citing California Labor Code section 2855, which mandates that personal services contracts have a maximum of seven years. Kanye, in fact, has actually been under the aforementioned contract since 2003 when he recorded his debut album, College Dropout.
The complaint reads:
It makes no difference under section 2855 whether the contract is otherwise fair, or whether the employer has fulfilled its end of the bargain. 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.
Obviously, this immediately rings the bell of that time ‘Ye went on TMZ and ranted about slavery, at the request of no one.
“When you hear about slavery for 400 years ... for 400 years? That sound like a choice,” said the rapper in May 2018. “Like … you was there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all?”
That feeling in your knee, ‘Ye? That’s superfluous iron. Iron knee.
In addition to the “freedom,” West hopes to receive a declaration from the judge allowing him to own all of his works past October 2010. Taking the case from state to federal court, EMI’s legal team sent a notice stating “The rights to, ownership interest in, and exploitation of copyrightable musical compositions are precisely the subject matter of the Copyright Act.” As for the process of copyright reversion, West must wait 35 years after publication date to implement that, under federal law.
35 Years a Slave, coming to a theater near you, February 47th.