Nearly three years after winning American Idol, Phillip Phillips is attempting to declare his contract with the show’s production company, 19 Entertainment, to be illegal, according to The Hollywood Reporter. In a legal filing, he claimed the company has “manipulated” him into making appearances, forcing him to perform for free at a concert for one of Idol’s sponsors, and that he found out the title of his last album, 2014’s Behind the Light, along with the general public.
Last week, the singer filed a “petition to determine controversy” – a legal document that could help him break free from his contract with the company – asking for a judge to rule that the company violated a California law that limits who can procure work for an artist. Phillips’ lawyer called the singer’s contracts “oppressive [and] fatally conflicted.” (The contract is available to view as a PDF via Hollywood Reporter.)
The law in question, Talent Agencies Act, requires that only licensed talent agents may procure work for their clients. Phillips claimed that the company booked his appearances at the NBA All-Star Game and a World Series game, which could be beneficial to his career, but is also illegal. Phillips also alleges that he performed at an unpaid gig promoting JetBlue supposedly to secure the airline’s support of a 2013 Idol tour. The singer said that because he did not perform on the tour, the gig was only in the interest of 19 Entertainment.
Similarly, Phillips alleged that 19 set up a concert for an insurance company for him and classified it as an “endorsement deal” so it could take a higher royalty. He also claimed that the company arranged for him to work with a producer who compromised his sound and that 19 Entertainment lied about the amount of royalties the producer would receive.
“I am very grateful for the opportunities provided to me through appearing on American Idol,” Phillips told THR. “The value that the fans and the show have given to my career is not lost on me. However, I have not felt that I have been free to conduct my career in a way that I am comfortable with. I look forward to being able to make my own choices about my career and to being able to make great music and play it for my fans.”
Phillips had attempted to renegotiate his contract, but because he’s signed to 19 Recordings – associated with 19 Entertainment – he was not successful, the petition claimed.
At the end of his petition, Phillips asks a judge to rule that 19 Entertainment broke the Talent Agencies Act, declare his contract illegal and pay Phillips any earnings he could have made were his contract different, among other damages.
“We’re very proud of everything we’ve accomplished together with Phillip, working closely to help nurture his extraordinary talent and advance his career,” a spokesperson for 19 Entertainment told THR. “We have always acted in the best interest of Phillip. We will vigorously defend ourselves from any baseless claims to the contrary and from any attempt to interfere with our rights and relationships.”
In 2012, Phillips told Rolling Stone he was happy to have been able to explore some outside-the-box ideas for his debut record, The World From the Side of the Moon. “I wanted to have a lot of freedom on the album,” he said. He also described the sessions for that album as “a lot of give and take.”