From 2006 through 2015, Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald made an astonishing $77.8 million in publishing income from co-writing such hits as Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend,” Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” and Kesha’s “Tik Tok.” Then came a devastating rape allegation from Kesha Rose Sebert. Suddenly, artists stopped working with him, and the income dried up. When a defamation trial finally gets underway in the seven-year-long legal battle, Dr. Luke wants to present an expert to testify that the smear cost him $46 million in lost business opportunities.
Those numbers come from court records unsealed on Monday. A New York judge will soon decide whether certain evidence is inadmissible, and both sides have requests. Among other things, Kesha wants to stop Dr. Luke from having a psychiatrist testify that her allegations are more consistent with a false report of rape than a true one. She wants to stop witnesses from telling a jury that he’s incapable of rape. And she demands that personal matters such as the uncertainty of her biological father be deemed out of bounds. Meanwhile, Dr. Luke wants the judge to strike any testimony about his enormous wealth, any evidence that he was a “drug dealer,” any mention of unrelated copyright claims against him, any false talk of a Lady Gaga rape and any larger discussion of the #MeToo movement.
Along with arguments on these subjects and others comes a slew of depositions, emails, expert reports and exhibits, including ones that Sony Music prefer nobody hear about.
Perhaps the document that will get the most attention — at least inside the entertainment industry — is the damages model from Dr. Luke’s financial expert, Arthur Erk, an accountant and business manager at Citrin Cooperman & Company.
His report (read here) includes a spreadsheet of annual publishing income from songs recorded by the likes of Jessie J, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Pitbull, Adam Lambert and on and on. Basically a “who’s who” of 21st century pop.
Using this information, Erk creates a model to estimate lost business opportunities, with particular emphasis on how the rape accusation cost Dr. Luke income from producing Katy Perry’s most recent albums. There, Erk notes that Dr. Luke earned $26.7 million from working on Perry’s first three albums and says it is reasonable that he would have earned $11.65 million more on her next three. His overall calculation is $46,253,672 in damages, and that includes a projection of lost revenue through 2024. (He breaks it down by year and type.)
Meanwhile, Kesha has hired her own expert, Louis Dudney, to offer rebuttal testimony.
Dudney, a managing director at AlixPartners, criticizes Erk for failing to look more deeply into the issue of causation. While Erk measures how Dr. Luke’s career has been stymied in general, Dudney says there may have been damage from accusations that were swirling before Kesha accused him publicly. He deems the economic damages analysis from Erk to be “speculative and unreliable.” (Read here.)
In defending Erk’s work, Dr. Luke’s attorneys say there’s no authoritative standard preventing an expert from assuming causation and that Dudney should be precluded from providing this critique at trial. They also attack Dudney’s failure to do his own economic model and his lack of experience in the music industry. And they attack some of the opinions he offered at deposition, including that another producer, Max Martin, was largely successful for Dr. Luke’s success.
On Thursday, New York Justice Jennifer Schecter will oversee a hearing where both sides will make their respective arguments about evidence and testimony at the forthcoming trial. A firm date for the main showdown still hasn’t been set.