kanye west label legal fight
Getty Images / Astrid Stawiarz

[UPDATE: March 11, 3:55 a.m. EST]: In response to Kanye West’s bid for freedom from his publisher EMI, the music company is now suing him for breach of contract. As Billboard reports, the publishing deal between the two includes a clause outlining exclusive jurisdiction in New York, stating that any objections must follow New York law. 

West’s lawsuit, which seeks to implement the De Havilland Law, was filed in the state of California. EMI’s lawyers are now claiming that his legal team have made a “flagrant attempt to forum shop his way around,” elaborating that the agreements “remain in full force and effect in their entirety.”

Read our original story below.

Back in January, reports emerged of Kanye West filing a pair of lawsuits; one against EMI, his publisher, and the other against a combination of his label affiliates, Roc-A-Fella Records, UMG Recordings, Def Jam, and Bravado International Group. At the time, the majority of the complaints were redacted and specific details of the proceedings were unavailable. Now, thanks to some legal maneuvering from EMI, the full complaint has been released, and it details that Kanye is attempting to “obtain his freedom” from all his label and publishing commitments.

Per the Hollywood Reporter, to achieve these ends, West is citing California Labor Code section 2855, which stipulates that “personal service contracts” cannot exceed a period of seven years. As his court documents prove, West has been obliged to work with EMI since 2003, more than double the maximum period the law allows.

Not only that, but West’s contract with EMI effectively makes him unable to legally retire. It states that “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 full extent of the documents indicate that West is breaking from his relationship with EMI to be able to work and sign to other labels and publishers in addition to preventing EMI from “exploiting” his compositions, meaning that he wants to claim sole copyright ownership of them. This stance has pushed the case from state court to federal court.

We will update this post as further information emerges.

Music Editor