Some Entertainment Contracts Go Beyond Earthly Boundaries

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Contract lawyers for entertainment companies are trying to cover all the bases with contracts that assert rights to revenue streams not only on Earth, but throughout the universe.

Law professors differ on whether the contracts are overkill, the Wall Street Journal reports.

University of Pennsylvania law school lecturer Ken Adams said contracts that cover outer space and reach until the end of time are silly. But Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman says the contracts could be “a stroke of brilliant foresight.”

Without the wide-reaching language, Goldman told the newspaper, people some day might ask, “What were they thinking? Why didn’t they get the Mars rights?”

The newspaper gives these examples of the new contracts:

America’s Got Talent requires contestants to agree that their performances could be edited, “in all media, throughout the universe, in perpetuity.”

• tells people posting to its message board that they are giving up rights to their submissions “throughout the universe.”

• Spicy Pickle Franchising Inc. has an agreement with its bank releasing the franchiser from all claims “from the beginning of time” until the date of the agreement.

• PBS television station WQED required a newspaper editor who appeared on a news talk show to allow the station to reproduce his image “throughout the universe in perpetuity, in any and all media now known or hereinafter devised.”

Jacquelyn Thomas, general counsel for WQED, told the Wall Street Journal that the language was justified. “I don’t mean to sound like a science-fiction nut, … but it’s not inconceivable that media will move beyond planet Earth,” she said.

For his part, the editor who signed the release, James O’Toole of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, said he doubts he’s missed out on a lot of income. But he does acknowledge, “I’m very popular in some of the far reaches of the Milky Way.”

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