In late January, Kanye West sued EMI Music Publishing, claiming that the contract he signed with them in 2003 amounts to “servitude.” Now, more details about that contract have emerged, revealing that it doesn’t allow the rapper to retire.
The Hollywood Reporter has published an excerpt of the contract that reveals the rapper is forbidden from stepping away from music:
“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.)”
West’s legal complaint—which has been made available to the public in full since earlier reporting—argues that EMI has violated California law, which bars personal services contracts from lasting beyond seven years. His contract, the complaint reads, has “depriv[ed] Mr West of the ‘breathing period’ that California law mandates.”
But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be an easy legal fight for the rapper. His contract, as the complaint notes, contains a disclaimer that “for purposes of California law,” these deals do not “constitute contracts for any of [West’s] personal services.” Rather, West is obligated only to “deliver” to EMI his ownership interest in any songs that he writes. Though the publishing company may seem in the clear because of this disclaimer, West’s lawyers claim it just “reflects EMI’s awareness that its contract with Mr West violated California public policy.”
This case might also land in federal court. This is because one of West’s legal demands is that EMI return him the rights to compositions he delivered them after October 2010 (i.e. from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a November 2010 release, onwards), and federal court has exclusive jurisdiction over copyright law. Last Friday, EMI’s lawyers applied to move the case to federal court on the basis that West’s demand is “precisely the subject matter of the Copyright Act.”