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Kesha’s Dismissal of Her California Lawsuit Isn’t the End of Anything

The announcement yesterday that Kesha had voluntarily dismissed her lawsuit in California against producer Dr. Luke means little -- but her new music means much more.

The announcement yesterday that Kesha had voluntarily dismissed her lawsuit in California against producer Dr. Luke, who signed the singer in 2005, came as a surprise to many who have closely followed the nearly two-year legal battle. But her dismissal of the case — which alleged physical, sexual and verbal abuse against Luke and sought to terminate Kesha’s contracts with Luke’s companies — does not mean Kesha is surrendering; simply that she’s focusing on New York, where the dispute has been centered for over a year, instead of California.


The reason for Kesha dropping the case and shifting her legal strategy to the East Coast is because of her deal with Kemosabe Records, which stipulates all contractual issues be litigated in New York, where Luke is simultaneously suing Kesha for breach of contract and defamation. Because of that clause, a California judge paused Kesha’s suit there in June 2015, ruling that because the singer was seeking to void her contracts as a result of her allegations, the New York-based contractual lawsuit should proceed first.

More surprising than Kesha’s dismissal of the California-based suit is the statement her attorney, Daniel M. Petrocelli, issued yesterday, saying Kesha is looking to jumpstart her career, which has remained in stasis since she first accused Luke of abuse. “Kesha is focused on getting back to work and has delivered 28 new songs to the record label,” he said. “We have conveyed to Sony Music and the label Kesha’s strong desire to release her next album and single as soon as possible.”

That’s a big step for Kesha and indicates a willingness to get on with her career despite the ongoing litigation. In New York, the singer is still appealing a Feb. 19 ruling by New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich denying an injunction that would have allowed her to record outside of Dr. Luke’s purview as well as a claim that her contracts are void. The producer is continuing to pursue defamation and breach of contract claims.

That means that until the appellate court weighs in, at the very least, Kesha’s new music will be released through RCA/Kemosabe, even if Sony has promised to allow her to record without Dr. Luke’s direct involvement (though his companies would still benefit).

After the September injunction was denied on Feb. 19, dance producer Zedd reached out to Kesha on Twitter offering his production services, and by late March Kesha had announced on Instagram that she was back to writing songs. A surprise appearance alongside Zedd at Coachella on April 17 followed, preceding the release of the duo’s collab “True Colors” on April 29. That song, released via Interscope (Zedd’s label), RCA and Kemosabe with Dr. Luke signing off on the release, was her first new material released via Luke’s label in years.

Still, her dismissal of the California case does not mean Kesha is giving up on that particular suit; because of the motion filed by Petrocelli, the claims can still be pursued at a later date. Indeed, in May her attorneys expressed interest in reviving them.

“If Kesha is voluntarily dismissing her claims in the California case, it is because she has no chance of winning them,” Dr. Luke’s attorney Christine Lepera said in a statement released yesterday. “Earlier this year, she lost her meritless counterclaims against Dr. Luke in the New York action. Recently, the California Court invited Dr. Luke and the other defendants to move to dismiss Kesha’s claims in that action. Kesha never should have brought her false and meritless claims against Dr. Luke in any court. Dr. Luke’s defamation and other claims against Kesha are still proceeding.”

If the New York case proceeds to trial without a settlement, as currently appears likely, it wouldn’t begin until next year at the earliest, and the dismissal of the California claims changes little. But by delivering new songs to her label, both sides will have an interest in seeing it succeed despite the ongoing litigation. As Kesha said in a Tweet yesterday, “My fight continues. I need to get my music out. I am continuing to fight for my rights in New York. Thank you for all your support.”