Kanye West Returns to Court to Fight EMI Contract ‘That Could Last… His Entire Life’

June 21, 2019, 9:27 PM UTC

Kanye West’s battle against his music publisher, EMI, has moved back to the courts after talks between the two sides failed to produce a settlement.

West filed suit against EMI in a California state court in January, seeking to be released from what he has called a “lopsided and oppressive” publishing contract that prohibits him from retiring from his music career. EMI countersued in federal court in New York in March, accusing the rapper, producer, and songwriter of attempting to renege on his contractual obligations to the company, which has administered West’s songs since 2003. The two sides told a judge earlier this month they were negotiating, according to The Hollywood Reporter, but on Thursday West filed a motion to dismiss EMI’s lawsuit against him.

West signed the contract with EMI shortly before the 2003 release of his first album, The College Dropout. The motion to dismiss cites a provision of California law that prohibits contracts like West’s from extending more than seven years, which would mean that his deal with the publisher should have ended in 2010. “Instead, EMI has sought to tie him to an exclusive publishing agreement that could last for years, if not his entire life,” the motion claims. West’s lawsuit against EMI asks the court to declare that he retains the rights to any songs he submitted to EMI after 2010, when he argues the contract ended. West’s motion also claims that the New York court lacks jurisdiction to consider EMI’s complaint, and that EMI couldn’t circumvent California law even if New York was the proper venue.

EMI argued in its March lawsuit that West had agreed to, and been compensated for, a series of modifications and extensions to the contract, including a clause that provides for disagreements to be resolved in New York.

West has released seven albums since The College Dropout, including 2018’s Ye, selling tens of millions of records worldwide and amassing critical acclaim. He has also attracted no shortage of controversy, for incidents including storming out of awards shows, criticizing President George W. Bush in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, upstaging Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, and his outspoken support for President Trump.

The lawsuit against EMI is one of two that West filed in January. He is also seeking release from his recording contract with Roc-a-Fella Records, UMG Recordings, Def Jam, and Bravado International Group. That case is pending.

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