Kesha denied appeal of Dr. Luke defamation verdict after court rules he’s not a “public figure”

Three out of five judges residing on the New York Court of Appeals ruled in favour of the producer

Kesha has been denied an appeal of a legal ruling that she defamed producer Dr. Luke, after the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the producer does not qualify as a “public figure”.

The legal battle between the two has been ongoing since 2014 when Kesha sued Dr. Luke, alleging emotional abuse and sexual assault. Dr. Luke – real name Lukasz Gottwald – countersued Kesha, claiming she had breached the recording contract they had with one another and made up rape allegations in an attempt to get out of the deal.

In February 2020, a New York Supreme Court judge ruled that Kesha had defamed Gottwald in a text she sent to Lady Gaga claiming Gottwald had raped Katy Perry – a claim both Perry and Gottwald have denied.

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Later that day, Kesha’s legal team revealed they would be appealing the verdict immediately. On April 22, that appeal was denied, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Three of the five judges residing on the New York Court of Appeals found that Gottwald is not a “public figure” – not even in a limited purpose for the case – and “never sought out publicity” around the case.

“Although Gottwald has sought publicity for his label, his music and his artists — none of which are subject of the defamation here – he never injected himself into the public debate about sexual assault or abuse of artists in the entertainment industry,” the ruling reads.

“Gottwald, a successful music producer, has not attracted media attention for his relationship with his clients or his treatment of artists in the entertainment industry but for his work as a music producer on behalf of, and the fame of, the artists he represents.”

The ruling also states that, despite Gottwald’s success as a producer, that doesn’t render him a “general-purpose” public figure.

“Gottwald’s success in the music business is not enough to bring him into the realm of a general-purpose public figure, even if the music he produces is known to the general public or he is associated with famous or household word musicians, especially where he has used his efforts as a producer to obtain publicity not for himself, but for the artists that he represents.”

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However, Justice Saliann Scarpulla, one of the dissenting minority, disagreed with the ruling in a separate statement.

“In sum, over many years Dr. Luke has received broad and extensive press coverage as a music producer and, in particular, as a discoverer and developer of female music talent,” Scarpulla wrote.

“He has pervasively sought out this publicity. Dr. Luke’s protestations that he was not well known at the time of the alleged defamatory statements is thoroughly belied by the record.

“The majority acknowledges that Dr. Luke is an acclaimed music producer but posits that he is not a general purpose public figure because he is not a ‘household name’. Dr. Luke, however, has achieved a level of fame and notoriety sufficient to be considered a general purpose public figure. He is a household name to those that matter.”

The Hollywood Reporter has noted that the denial of Kesha’s appeal may be stifled by New York’s recent passing of an anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) law that “makes even private-figure plaintiffs demonstrate a defendant’s actual malice on issues of public concern”.

A final trial date for the case has yet to have been set.

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