#FreeKesha: Corporate Slavery in the literal sense

Kesha has been in the public eye ever since she stomped onto the music scene with lyrics appealing to a generation of hungover youths whose little money was spent on Jack Daniels and, presumably, face glitter. In recent weeks however, this brazen, almost swaggering persona has disappeared in light of the high profile sexual assault case against her music producer, Lukasz Gottwald – or as he is better known, Dr Luke.

There was considerable evidence mounting against Dr Luke throughout the case, including statements which can be read online about how after being forced to drink with him, Kesha woke up naked in his bed, having no memory of what had happened the previous night. The official document also gave details of Dr Luke giving her what he described as “sober pills” which transpired to be a form of GHB or gamma-hydroxybutyrate, more commonly known as the date rape drug. Despite all of this, the court still contested that there was “insufficient evidence” to terminate Kesha’s contract with Sony that would allow her to create her own music and to stop working with Dr Luke, which was the primary reason she came out in public about it.

Surprisingly, or rather, maybe not so surprisingly, the case did not seem to revolve around the fact that there was years of evidence against Dr Luke surrounding crimes that should normally lead to prosecution or at least a further line of enquiry. In fact, nearly all the statements from Sony did not mention the allegations but instead dealt with the fact that it was unfortunate but Sony was “legally unable to terminate the contract to which it is not a party”. This is most likely at least partially true seeing as Dr Luke’s label is a subsidiary, which complicates the ability of Kesha to appeal to Sony to break her contract with him.

It is no secret that numerous artists are effectively owned by their producers. But as this court case has proved, not only does Dr Luke control Kesha creatively, but he clearly thinks that control extends to her body and free will. Not only is this a feminist issue, it also clearly highlights the ability of corporate giants to hide behind the fact that they do not have a distinctive face, a recognisable character that will have to confront the barrage of abuse and hate that is rightly thrown in their direction. Dr Luke is just one of hundreds, if not thousands, of producers and industry goliaths that will continue to evade being held accountable as they possess legally binding documents that enslave budding artists, right up to the Keshas and Lady Gagas of the world. We protest, condemn and punish slavery every day, so why should it be any different when it comes to slavery at the hands of some of the richest people in the world?

[Aoife Maguire]

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