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LA Trend: More Confidentiality Contracts

Posted Jul 26, 2007 1:52 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Hollywood's entertainment and business elite are, of course, perennially concerned about privacy. But ever-more-stringent efforts are now being made to safeguard from public scrutiny the personal lives of Los Angeles residents at all levels of society.

Among the latest innovations, reports the Los Angeles Times, are standard rules requiring relatively low-level workers such as pool cleaners and yard maintenance contractors to sign nondisclosure agreements guaranteeing confidentiality practically before they set foot on a home owner's property.

One of interior designer David Dalton's clients, for instance, now requires all delivery personnel to sign nondisclosure agreements at the door. Alternatively, many companies dealing with well-to-do clients include nondisclosure language as standard boilerplate in their own contracts, to save home owners the trouble of obtaining separate agreements from individual workers, according to the article. Some elite individuals even manage to obtain nondisclosure agreements without revealing their own identify, by using a management company as a go-between or, if they are not celebrities recognizable on sight, by using a pseudonym when dealing with workers.

"Any plumber or gardener can use a cellphone camera to film a husband and wife fighting, or a child having a tantrum, or a client getting out of a shower, and then download it anonymously to YouTube," says Paul Nicholas Boylan, a lawyer in Davis, Calif. "In a world like this, it makes sense that a contract to fix a sink or mow the lawn would contain a confidentiality agreement."

Even once a nondisclosure agreement is executed, however, it can be difficult to enforce. Although non-celebrities can rely on privacy law to protect them if a breached contract winds up in court, those in the public eye may have little privacy to safeguard. And, while nondisclosure agreements can specify damages for breach, relatively low-level workers may have no assets to collect anyway, Boylan points out. He recommends that confidentiality contracts focus on ownership of personal information, so that selling it without authorization amounts to theft.

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