Business & Practice

Kanye West Dumps Quinn Emanuel in Music Rights Row with EMI

Sept. 12, 2019, 4:16 PM

Kanye West has ditched his lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan in a cross-country fight to escape a 15-year old contract with music publisher EMI that he says is illegal.

West’s new lawyers in the lawsuits taking place in California state court and New York federal court are Ekwan Rhow and Grace Kang of Los Angeles litigation boutique Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks, Lincenberg & Rhow.

John Quinn, Quinn Emanuel’s managing partner, signed court documents agreeing to the attorney switch last week. Quinn did not immediately return a request for comment.

Kanye’s original lawsuit was filed by Quinn Emanuel partner Robert Schwartz.

Quinn Emanuel in January filed a lawsuit on the rapper’s behalf saying his contract with EMI, signed shortly before the 2004 release of his breakout album, “College Dropout,” violated California law. The lawsuit seeks the return of West’s publishing rights and monetary damages, arguing the “Jesus Walks” singer could only be held to his contract for a seven-year term that would have ended in 2010.

“Mr. West has been working for EMI under the 2003 contract for over 15 years. EMI has unjustly earned millions of dollars by tethering Mr. West’s songwriting efforts for an unlawful term. He is entitled to his freedom,” the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court states.

EMI, represented by Manatt Phelps & Phillips, countersued in New York federal court in March. The publishing company said West’s contract required litigation of disputes in New York.

The two sides are still fighting over where the lawsuit will proceed. A federal judge in the Southern District of New York in August directed the parties to update the court within three days of any decision by the California court regarding pending motions for transfer.

To contact the reporter on this story: Roy Strom in Chicago at rstrom@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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