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Kanye settles “never, never” tweet lawsuit, dubs publishing contract as ‘servitude’

By | Published on Friday 1 February 2019

Kanye West

One of the best (by which we mean most amusing) pop lawsuits of recent years has been settled. The fan who sued Kanye West for saying that his ‘The Life Of Pablo’ album would “never, never, never be on Apple” – when in fact the record was streaming on Apple Music six weeks later – has said his litigation is now at an end. Terms of any settlement between the rapper and the fan are not known.

‘The Life Of Pablo’ came out in early 2016 when the streaming services were busy dabbling with album exclusives. Tidal got the exclusive on the new West record. Which is why, caught up in the excitement of it all, the rapper took to Twitter to declare that his new album “will never, never, never be on Apple” and that “you can only get it on Tidal”.

In the end Jay-Z’s streaming service only actually had an exclusive on the LP for six weeks, it subsequently popping up everywhere else. Although the record had evolved a little during Tidal’s exclusivity period, so you could argue that the original version of the album was only ever on Tidal, while the final version streamed on multiple platforms.

Either way, one West fan – a Mr Justin Baker-Rhett – felt that he had been tricked into signing up to Tidal by being told it would be the only way to access the new record.

West and the streaming firm had, the fan’s subsequent lawsuit reckoned, “duped consumers into signing up for Tidal subscriptions – which required handing over troves of valuable personal data including credit card information – under the false pretence that doing so was the only way they would be able to hear ‘The Life Of Pablo'”.

The litigation, which always seemed somewhat ambitious, got bounced from California to New York and was then trimmed down to size. However, last June a judge ruled that Baker-Rhett’s core allegation – that he was misled into signing up for Tidal by West’s “never, never, never” tweet – could proceed to court.

There were then efforts to make the dispute a class action, which would mean anyone else who signed up to Tidal on the back of the “never, never, never” tweet could also claim damages, if Baker-Rhett was to win in court.

However, it is now all at an end. New legal papers filed with the court by the Baker-Rhett side earlier this week stated that both parties in the dispute “hereby stipulate and agree to the dismissal of plaintiff’s individual claims with prejudice and the putative class’s claims without prejudice, with each party to bear its own attorney fees and costs”.

So, that’s no fun, is it? Though it does give West’s legal team more time to focus on the all-important business of suing the biggest music rights companies in the world.

It recently emerged that the rapper has filed lawsuits against Sony/ATV’s EMI Music Publishing as well as some Universal Music labels and its merchandiser Bravado. Although the publicly available papers related to the cases were heavily redacted, it seems West is trying to reclaim various rights in his work given up in the early years of his career.

Offering a little more insight on at least one those lawsuits, TMZ says that – in new legal documents – West characterises his publishing contract with EMI as amounting to a form of “servitude”, adding that he is entitled “to be set free from its bonds”. Which is interesting, I mean it’s not like West to carelessly make light of slavery, is it?

In terms of actual legalities, he seemingly then cites the rule under California law that says services contracts entered into in the state cannot last for more than seven years. Which could spark yet more debate over how and whether that particular rule can and should apply to record and publishing deals signed with music companies, or divisions of music companies, with a Californian base. Good times.