In 1993, Prince famously appeared in public with the word “Slave” written on his cheek in protest of his Warner Bros. Records contract. He felt that the terms of the contract constricted his artistic ambitions and unfairly took money out of his pockets. Now, another controversial artist is following in his footsteps. According to TMZ, Kanye West has filed court documents in his ongoing lawsuit against EMI Records and Roc-A-Fella that compare the terms of his own record contract to “servitude” due to its lack of of a time limit.
In the state of California, he may have a point. In California, personal services contracts cannot last longer than seven years or they actually amount to servitude. According to his record deal, he owes a certain number of songs with no time limit to deliver them. It’s a technicality, but exactly the kind that the record industry basically relies on to function. Kanye wants to have the terms of his contract limited to 2010, which would cause the rights for every song he’s made since then — including hits like “All Of The Lights,” “Monster,” and “Power” from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, “N—-s In Paris” from Watch The Throne, and “Bound 2” from Yeezus and Famous” from The Life Of Pablo. Of course, these are some of his most successful singles to date, meaning that he’ll get all the royalties from his biggest hits, without splitting them with record labels.
If Kanye is able “to be set free from its bonds,” as he asks in the documents, he stands to make a lot of money and receive more creative control over his output in the future.