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Women and Sony

By Kerri McNair

Kesha Rose Sebert was 18 when she signed a contract with Sony and Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald. Like many artists, she did this in order to partner up and get her music to reach a wider audience. After about a year with the contract, Kesha felt that she wasn’t being managed as well as she could be and signed another contract with DAS Communications. This led to legal problems that surfaced in 2010. During the lawsuit between Kesha, DAS, and Gottwald, DAS claimed that Gottwald had engaged in immoral behavior to convince his client to get out of her contract with them. Kesha made claims in unsealed portions of a deposition from this lawsuit that Gottwald had not assaulted her, but later reneged on this saying that she had been threatened so that she would not tell the truth.

Six years later, Kesha’s battle with Sony and her producer Gottwald has been popping up in headlines for about a year without resolution. The Sony Corporation (under which Kesha and Gottwald formed their contract) has anything but a pristine record when it comes to women they’ve signed. Is it a coincidence that Kesha, a women, is having trouble escaping her contract and her alleged rapist?

November 24, 2014 saw a massive hack and release of some of Sony’s data, including emails and salary information for various actors. Producer Scott Rudin had sent emails calling Angelina Jolie “a minimally talented spoiled brat” Not only that, but it was discovered that, despite the Equal Pay Act which supposedly guarantees all genders equal pay for equal work, Sony was paying its actresses significantly less than its actors.

“When the Sony hack happened and I found out how much less I was being paid than the lucky people with dicks, I didn’t get mad at Sony…I got mad at myself…I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early,” said Jennifer Lawrence. Whether Lawrence is mad at Sony or not, the treatment is obviously and egregiously unfair. A corporation that treats its female workers as Sony has forfeits most of its rights to “benefit of the doubt.”

Many reference Zayn Malik when talking about Kesha’s unfair treatment, who was released from his contract with One Direction around this time last year. Since neither Malik’s nor Kesha’s contracts with Sony have been released to the public, one can’t determine whether Sony’s drastically different treatment of the two is due to solely gender. However, given Sony’s past dealings with women who work for the company, the existence double-standard is not that hard to imagine.

I interviewed Dr. Marisa Pagnattaro who is the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs at the University of Georgia. She commented on the recent injunction loss that Kesha experienced. An injunction, she explained, is asking the court to immediately order something to happen, or to stop something. She wanted the courts to force Sony’s hand, and the courts said no. “It’s like emergency relief,” Pagnattaro said.

When asked how she thought the recently unsealed portions of Kesha’s deposition might affect the current case, Pagnattaro said that it really depends on how the jurors view the artist’s credibility. She also said that it is understandable that a victim of assault might be coerced into lying by his or her abuser. The ordeal Kesha is going through must be onerous if her allegations are correct.

“The courts have a lot of discretion,” she said, “And it seems as though, if the things she’s saying are true, that she would ultimately be released from the contract.”

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