LOS ANGELES (CN) – A British singer and actress seeking to part ways with hip-hop mogul Jay Z’s record label claims in court that she was left “in a political quagmire of dysfunction” and made to self-fund her career.
Rita Ora sued Roc Nation on Dec. 17 in Superior Court. Jay Z, Shawn Carter, is not named as a defendant.
Ora, 25, claims she entered an “oppressive recording agreement” with Roc Nation when she was 18, through which the company was able to “garner not only the bulk” of income from her record sales, but a “sizable portion” from her live shows, endorsement, sponsorships, acting and merchandise sales.
Though Roc Nation executives were initially “very involved” with Ora as an artist, the company’s interests “diversified,” leaving fewer resources available and “a revolving door of executives,” the lawsuit states.
Roc Nation recently launched a sports management firm and agency and the Tidal Music streaming service.
The company also left distributing label partner Sony for Universal in 2013, Ora claims, and was “legally obligated” to leave her at non-party Sony.
Sony was “hamstrung” by Roc Nation’s inattention as a result, and “attempted to fill the void left by Roc Nation’s apathy, which at this point borders on antipathy,” the 8-page lawsuit adds. “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.”
Ora says she no longer has a relationship “with anyone” at Roc Nation.
She says Roc Nation “now allocates its diminished record label resources to only a handful of admittedly worthy heritage superstar artists,” and permitted her to release only one album in seven years.
Ora says she “pushed forward” with her career despite these limitations.
“Roc Nation has made it clear that if Rita wants a recording career, she’s on her own,” the lawsuit states. “Working around Roc Nation’s lack of focus and support, Rita has pushed forward with her recording career, self-funding her promotional television appearances, recording costs and video projects.”
Ora cited California Labor Code §2855, “the seven-year rule,” in the lawsuit, which provides that contracts to render personal service “may not be enforced beyond seven years from the commencement of service under it.”
Ora signed a so-called long-form entertainment agreement with Roc Nation on Dec. 18, 2008, the lawsuit states, and “has not been free to provide her recording services except as permitted or dictated by Roc Nation.”
Ora’s contract made her an exclusive employee of Roc Nation through May 26, 2013, with up to four additional option periods of more than one year each, she claims.
Option periods are keyed to the commercial release of an album, Ora added, which could extend her exclusive employee status until 2019.
“California Labor Code §2855 prohibits the enforcement beyond seven years of a contract (such as the recording agreement) to render services of a special, unique, extraordinary or intellectual character,” the lawsuit states. “Rita’s seven years have run. Roc Nation’s attempts to thwart this important and fundamental California public policy should not be condoned.”
Ora, referred to as a “household name internationally” in the lawsuit, starred in the first “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie and joined television shows “The X Factor U.K.” and “The Voice U.K.” as a judge and coach, respectively, this year.
Born Rita Sahatçiu in Kosovo, Ora was reportedly named for film star Rita Hayworth.
Ora is listed as a Los Angeles taxpayer and resident in the lawsuit.
She seeks declaration that the recording contract violated California’s seven-year rule, constituted unfair competition under state code, and was unenforceable after Dec. 17.
She is represented by Howard King with King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano.
Roc Nation representatives could not immediately be reached by phone for comment.
King was unavailable for comment on Monday.
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