Producer Dr. Luke first signed Kesha to Kemosabe Records, his Sony-owned label, in 2005 when the “TiK ToK” singer was 18 years old. Now, Kesha is trying to get out of that contract based on allegations that he has “sexually, physically, verbally, and emotionally abused” her — claims Dr. Luke has denied in court and on social media.
After years of litigation, the trial is still contested. Kesha was denied a preliminary injunction Friday, and as the questions about the case stack up, the specifics can get confusing. Below, EW breaks down what you need to know.
Dr. Luke, born Lukasz Gottwald, is one of the biggest hitmakers in pop music: He’s helmed No. 1 singles from artists like Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Nicki Minaj, Miley Cyrus, and Katy Perry, and has been nominated for four Grammys (two were for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical). “Since U Been Gone,” “I Kissed a Girl,” “Party in the U.S.A.,” “Pills n Potions,” “Roar” — Gottwald co-produced and co-wrote them all.
Gottwald got his start as the house guitarist for Saturday Night Live in the late-’90s, and he spent 10 years working in Studio 8H. He went on to meet star producer Max Martin, and the two hit forged a working relationship. After extensive work together, they most recently teamed up for Flo Rida’s “Once in a Lifetime” in 2014, and share credits on No. 1 hits like Perry’s “Teenage Dream” and Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You.”
Kesha first filed a complaint against Gottwald in October 2014, alleging the producer had emotionally and physically abused her and threatened to “shut her career down” if she ever told anyone. The suit requested Kesha be released from any contracts with Gottwald. “I know I cannot work with Dr. Luke. I physically cannot,” she said in an affidavit filed in 2015 to grant a preliminary injunction. “I don’t feel safe in any way. He has threatened me many times.”
Gottwald responded to Kesha’s October 2014 complaint by filing a defamation suit, calling Kesha’s claims “a campaign of publishing false and shocking accusations against [Gottwald] to extort Plaintiffs into letting Kesha” out of the contracts.
“I didn’t rape Kesha and I have never had sex with her,” he posted Monday via Twitter. “It’s sad that she would turn a contract negotiation into something so horrendous and untrue,” he said in a separate tweet. “But I feel confident when this is over the lies will be exposed and the truth will prevail…”
In that same series of tweets, Gottwald pointed out that Kesha previously said, “Dr. Luke never made sexual advances at [her]” in a 2011 deposition obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. The deposition was taken for a case between DAS Communications and Gottwald, where she sided with the latter party.
Most recently, Kesha requested a preliminary injunction that would allow her to work outside her contract with Gottwald’s Kasz Money company while the case continued. (Under the terms of the contract, Kasz Money furnishes Kesha’s services to Sony.) According to the memo filed in support of Kesha’s motion for a preliminary injunction, in order to gain a one in New York, where the case is being tried, the person asking for the injunction must have a strong case that shows a good chance of ultimately winning and that they’ll be irreparably harmed if the injunction is not granted, among other factors.
New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich concluded that “there has been no showing of irreparable harm” in Kesha’s case, partly because “she’s been given opportunity to record.” Kornreich said, “You’re asking the court to decimate a contract that was heavily negotiated and typical for the industry.”
Gottwald’s lawyer, Christine Lepera, argues that “Kesha is already ‘free’ to record and release music without working with Dr. Luke as a producer if she doesn’t want to.” But Kesha’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, says Sony’s claim that Kesha can still record music sans Luke is “an elusive promise,” BuzzFeed previously reported.
Fellow musicians, some of whom have worked with Gottwald, have spoken out on behalf of the pop star following the ruling: Miley Cyrus reposted a photo of Fiona Apple holding a sign that reads, “Kesha — I am so angry for you. They were wrong. I’m so sorry.” That same day, Clarkson retweeted a Best Coast tweet that said, “This is legit bulls—” next to a link to an EW story about the court’s decision. “Trying 2 not say anything since I can’t say anything nice about a person,” Clarkson added. “So this is me not talking about Dr. Luke.”
“To be clear, Kesha’s case is about more than a pop star fighting for her freedom, or a $60 million investment in a shiny commercial career,” the Girls creator wrote. “What’s happening to Kesha highlights the way that the American legal system continues to hurt women by failing to protect them from the men they identify as their abusers.”
Taylor Swift also showed support by donating $250,000 to Kesha after the injunction was rejected.
The next step comes March 21, Billboard reports, when the discovery period begins. The trial for Kesha’s case against Gottwald itself isn’t likely to begin until at least early 2017.