*British singer and Roc Nation artist Rita Ora says she feels abandoned by Jay Z and wants off of his label.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Ora is suing Roc Nation under California’s famous “seven-year rule” on personal service contracts. In her complaint filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, she’s seeking a declaratory judgment that the recording agreement she signed in 2008 at the age of 18 with Roc Nation violates California law and is unenforceable.
She’s taking such action after presenting herself as “orphaned” from Roc Nation in light of the Jay Z company’s developing interest in sports management, music streaming services and other endeavors.
“When Rita signed, Roc Nation and its senior executives were very involved with her as an artist,” states the complaint. “As Roc Nation’s interests diversified, there were fewer resources available and the company suffered a revolving door of executives. Rita’s remaining supporters at the label left or moved on to other activities, to the point where she no longer had a relationship with anyone at the company.”
The lawsuit goes on to describe Roc Nation as a “diminished” record label with “only a handful of admittedly worthy heritage superstar artists.”
Ora (now living in California) says she’s on her own, “self-funding her promotional television appearances, recording costs and video projects,” but she has a problem. In 2013, Roc Nation switched its distribution partner from Sony to Universal, but according to the lawsuit, she’s been left behind at Sony, which she paints as “hamstrung” by Roc Nation’s alleged inattention.
“Between Sony’s limited economic return from its orphaned relationship with Roc Nation and Sony’s indirect relationship with Rita, Rita is caught in a political quagmire of dysfunction,” states the complaint.
Ora is now seizing on California Labor Code §2855 (the “Seven Year Rule”), which was first tested in 1944 when actress Olivia De Haviland had an issue with Warner Bros. The studio kept extending her contract despite suspending her for rejecting suggested roles. In 1944, the California Court of Appeal ruled that De Havilland could not be subject to a contract to perform personal services beyond seven years from the beginning of the deal. According to THR, the ruling fundamentally changed Hollywood and helped bring down the old studio system.
But the “seven year rule” has continued to be controversial in the recording industry where artists often wait years before making a new album.
“Rita’s relationship with Roc Nation is irrevocably damaged,” states the complaint made on Ora’s behalf by attorney Howard King. “Fortunately for Rita, the California legislature had the foresight to protect its artists from the sorts of vicissitudes she’s experienced with Roc Nation.”