Kanye West is legally obligated to make music for the rest of his life, according to his contract with EMI Music Publishing.
In January, Kanye filed suit against EMI and Universal Music Group’s Roc-A-Fella Records in order to “obtain his freedom” and get out of his publishing and label deals.
The Hollywood Reporter has now obtained a copy of the complaint, which states that in West’s contract he is forbidden from not working.
“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,” reads the contract. “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.)”
West signed with EMI in 2003. His deal obligated him to deliver a minimum number of new songs good enough to be released by major labels. He received an advance of a few hundred thousand dollars plus royalties. After The College Dropout was released to much acclaim and commercial success, EMI exercised its options to extend the agreement.
In order to get out of the contract, West cites California Labor Code section 2855, which limits personal service contracts to no more than seven years.
“It makes no difference under section 2855 whether the contract is otherwise fair, or whether the employer has fulfilled its end of the bargain,” states the complaint. “It matters only whether the services began more than seven years ago. There can be no dispute that this happened here. The seven-year period ended under this contract on October 1, 2010. For more than eight years thereafter — more than double the maximum seven-year period California law allows — EMI has enforced rights in violation of California law, depriving Mr. West of the ‘breathing period’ that California law mandates.”
Kanye is seeking the freedom to sign new deals with other record labels and music publishers, and alleges that EMI has unjustly profited millions of dollars. He also wants a judge to give him ownership of compositions he has already delivered to the company after October 2010.