Georgia residents who follow developments in the music business will likely know that disputes between recording artists and record labels often become contentious. During a bitter legal battle with Warner Bros., Prince appeared on stage with the word ‘slave” written on one of his cheeks and then changed his name. He also compared recording contracts to modern slavery in a 2015 interview with the music magazine Rolling Stone. The latest such dispute involves superstar hip-hop artist Kanye West and the recording giant EMI.
The British record label obtained the publishing rights to West’s music in 2003, but the rapper referred to his contract as ‘servitude” in a lawsuit he filed to get out of the deal in January 2019. Analysts believe West filed his lawsuit in a California court because of the state’s broad anti-servitude laws. EMI responded two months later by filing a countersuit in federal court. The label argued that West was bound by his contract because he had signed several extensions.
The two sides reached a tentative agreement in September 2019, but reports revealing that EMI has reopened its litigation led observers to conclude that settlement talks had broken down. EMI attorneys confirmed media rumors when they announced that the finer points of the settlement agreement could not be worked out and litigation became the company’s only option.
The parties to a contract are usually happy when the documents are signed, and disputes that arise are often the result of misunderstandings or a lack of due diligence. Attorneys with experience in business law may seek to avoid protracted and ruinously expensive litigation by checking that the parties involved understand their responsibilities and are capable of meeting them. When contract disputes do occur, attorneys may suggest less costly alternatives to court such as mediation or arbitration.