Kesha vs. Dr. Luke: Their Controversial Court Case Explained

Last week (February 19th), Kesha’s attempt to leave her recording contract with Sony was denied by a court by the New York Supreme Court. Kesha claimed in 2014 that her producer Dr. Luke (Lukasz Gottwald), had subjected her to “mental manipulation, emotional abuse and sexual assault” and this week her attempt to exit her recording contract with him was denied. Several high profile stars including Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga have lent their support to the US pop singer, but the case has become increasingly complex over the last week. Here’s a quick explainer about the recent events.

Who are Kesha and Dr. Luke?

Kesha is a US singer-songwriter who signed to Dr. Luke’s record label, Kemosabe Entertainment in 2005 at the age of 18. She has since released two albums, 2010’s ‘Animal’ and 2012’s ‘Warrior’.


Dr. Luke (real name Lukasz Gottwald) is a music producer and owner of Kemosabe Entertainment. Since signing Kesha in 2005, Dr. Luke produced both of her aforementioned albums. He has also produced music for Katy Perry and Kelly Clarkson.

When did this case start?

In 2014, Kesha filed a lawsuit accusing Dr. Luke of “mental manipulation, emotional abuse and sexual assault” and alleged that she was raped by Dr. Luke. Her lawsuit included an alleged incident in which Luke had given her ‘sober pills’ – which turned out to be a date rape drug – and after consuming them she alleges that she “woke up naked in Dr. Luke’s bed sore, sick… and with no memory of how she got there”. The suit also requested that Kesha be released from any recording contract with Sony as a result – which is what the hearing this week was about.

Dr. Luke responded by suing Kesha for defamation and called the claims “outright lies”. He still denies the allegations made against him and tweeted about them this week.


What was the result this week?

Justice Kornreich of the New York Supreme Court denied the injunction saying, “You’re asking the court to decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated and typical for the industry,” before adding “I don’t understand why I have to take the extraordinary measure of granting an injunction,”. As of right now, Kesha is still signed to Kemosabe Entertainment – Dr. Luke’s label which is owned by Sony Records.

This result however has no bearing on the lawsuit Kesha filed in 2014. The hearing this week was merely to decide whether Kesha was to be released from her recording contract with Dr. Luke’s label.

The rape allegations against Dr. Luke were used as evidence by Kesha’s lawyers to support her release from the recording contract – but they will be brought to trial in their own right at a later date.

So can Kesha record music?

A statement by Dr. Luke released after the verdict said that Kesha was ‘free’ to continue working and releasing music and that any suggestion otherwise is a ‘myth’. This is in response to Kesha’s lawyers claiming that her career is “effectively over” due to the delay in the case betting settled. Kesha has not released any new music since her 2012 album ‘Warrior’.

UPDATE (29/2/2016): On Friday (February 26th), Kesha’s lawyer Mark Geragos tweeted a 27-second clip of a new track Kesha song. ‘A special thanks to everyone who has had her back’ he says in the tweet, as Kesha sings “Oh I do not know what I would do, without you”.

What happens now?

Yesterday Kesha released a statement to the press: “All I ever wanted was to be able to make music without being afraid, scared, or abused. This case has never been about a renegotiation of my record contract – it was never about getting a bigger, or a better deal. This is about being free from my abuser. I would be willing to work with Sony if they do the right thing and break all ties that bind me to my abuser.”

Sony say that they are “not in a position to terminate the contractual relationship between Luke and Kesha” adding “Sony is doing everything it can to support the artist in these circumstances, but is legally unable to terminate the contract to which it is not a party”.

At this point it is unclear how the remainder of the case unfolds. Several stars have come out in support of Kesha via Social Media and in public, and her fans have organised a #FreeKesha protest outside of Sony’s headquarters in New York.

UPDATE (29/2/2016): Kesha fans protested outside Sony’s New York offices on Friday in response to the verdict which keeps her signed to Kemosabe Entertainment and in turn, Sony Records.

Several stars have also come out in support of Kesha.

Taylor Swift Spokesperson

“In a show of support, Taylor Swift has donated $250,000 to Kesha to help with any of her financial needs during this trying time.”