Music Producer Dr. Luke is not a “Public Figure” for the Purpose of Libel Law

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On April 22nd, 2021, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s decision that music producer Lukasz Gottwald, professionally known as Dr. Luke, is not a “public figure.”

The decision was affirmed just in time for an upcoming trial over claims that pop-star singer Kesha slandered him by falsely accusing him of drugging and raping her.

Dr. Luke initially filed the case in 2014, claiming that he had been defamed by Kesha’s “false and shocking” allegation that he once drugged and raped her. But it was not until last year that a New York State Trial Court sided with Dr. Luke on several key issues – the most important being that Dr. Luke was not a public figure.

The Appellate Division rejected arguments from both the pop singer Kesha and a slew of media companies. The court’s decision will make it much easier for Dr. Luke to prevail against the pop singer for libel. By affirming the lower court’s finding that Dr. Luke is not a “public figure,” Dr. Luke will only need to prove that Kesha acted with negligence when making the accusations against him, rather than acting intentionally or recklessly.

Drawing backlash from Kesha and more than a dozen media organizations, the decision also came with an intense dissent from Judge Saliann Scarpulla. Judge Scarpulla’s dissent echoed a brief filed last summer by BuzzFeed, Dow Jones, and several other media organizations warning the court that its approach would make it easier for rich people like Dr. Luke to silence criticism.

The upcoming trial between Dr. Luke and Kesha is scheduled for Fall 2021.

Kesha is represented by Anton Metlitsky, Leah Godesky, Yaira Dubin, and Daniel M. Petrocelli of O’Melveny & Myers and by James M. Pearl of Paul Hastings LLP.

Dr. Luke is represented by Jeffrey M. Movit, Christine Lepera, and David A. Steinberg of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP.

The media amici are represented by Eileen Monaghan DeLucia, Brian T. Goldman, and Prishika Raj of Holwell Shuster & Goldberg LLP, and by Eugene Volokh.

Lukasz Gottwald v. Kesha Rose Sebert, case numbers 2020-01908, 2020-01910, is in the New York State Appellate Division, First Judicial Department.

* Lowe & Associates (“The Firm”) is an entertainment and business law firm located in Beverly Hills, California. The Firm has extensive experience handling cases involving defamation law, having provided top-quality legal services to its clients since 1991. The Firm is recognized for its many achievements, including successfully litigating many high-profile cases.

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