Written By: ELo Copeland | @ mselo1
“What if somebody from the Chi' that was ill got a deal on the hottest rap label around?” Quoted from Kanye West’s song Through the Wire. This same label he raps about is one of two labels that currently are not releasing him from his contracts.
Kanye West filed lawsuits against both Universal Music Group’s Roc-a-Fella Records and EMI Music Publishing, attempting to “obtain his freedom” and acquire the rights to all of his music and get out of his publishing and label deals.
These contracts were heavily censored, but provisions of Kanye’s contract with EMI have been released, showing the strict terms. A copy of the complaint was received by The Hollywood Reporter, which declares that Kanye’s contract does not allow him to not work or retire:
“You (Mr. West) hereby represent and warrant that to [EMI] that You will, throughout the Term as extended by this Modification, remain actively involved in writing, recording and producing Compositions and Major Label Albums, as Your principle occupation. At no time during the Term will you seek to retire as a songwriter, recording artist or producer or take any extended hiatus during which you are not actively pursuing Your musical career in the same basic manner as You have pursued such career to date. (The preceding representation shall not be deemed to prevent You from taking a vacation of limited duration.)”
Kanye signed with EMI in 2003. To get out of the agreement, the artist’s legal team cites California Labor Code section 2855, which limits personal service contracts to no more than seven years.
Last October, Kanye stated he’d tried to purchase his publishing catalog from Sony/ATV Music and was refused. EMI is now owned by Sony/ATV.
Kanye continued, “Sony ATV told me I couldn’t buy my publishing [but] I got the money… So Big Jon [Platt], Marty [Bandier]….whoever is involved….I need my publishing…I got the money. I’m not gonna say the ‘S’ word. I’m not Prince, I don’t need to write it on my face.”
Kanye was referring to back in the 90’s when Prince wrote the word “slave” on his face to protest Warner Bros. Records, which wouldn’t release him from his contract. On Friday, attorneys for the music publisher filed a notice of removal, stating, “The rights to, ownership interest in, and exploitation of copyrightable musical compositions are precisely the subject matter of the Copyright Act.”
If EMI’s argument, which blocks Kanye’s claims, is successfully made in court, under the termination rules, authors must wait 35 years after the date of publication to reclaim rights.
“I went to go buy my publishing from Sony/ATV and they said, ‘It’s $8 million [or] $9 million’ and when I went to buy it, they told me ‘No,’ I couldn’t buy my publishing. I have the money to buy [back] my publishing. And they told me that I couldn’t buy my publishing…. It’s like the control.”