Actor/Comedian Jon Lovitz recently signed contract to appear on stage at the Laugh Factory every Wednesday for the rest of his life. (He'll be 50 on July 21st)
I don't mean to suggest that the deal is anything but great for all parties, but given California's statutory 7-year limit on personal services, can Jamie Masada, owner of the Laugh Factory really expect to enforce the terms for very long?
Entertainment Lawyers learn about this law very early in their schooling and/or careers.
California's Labor Code Section 2855 (otherwise known as the “Seven Year Statute”) limits the amount of time anyone can be held to a contract for “personal services” to a maximum of seven years. This law has been on the books since the end of the so-called “studio system” in Hollywood. The idea behind the seven year limitation is to ensure that artists are able to reap the rewards of their successes, and won't be held to low-paying and exploitative contracts entered into early in their careers.
How then, can the parties expect to bind one-another for a longer period? Not being privy to the deal's specific terms, it's impossible to tell. Here, obviously, Lovitz is not a newcomer, is certainly being paid very handsomely, and no doubt has excellent representation, so he's unlikely to wind up feeling exploited, but ultimately, My suspicion is that all parties have simply agreed to ignore Section 2855, and are glad to take advantage of the big announcement for its Public-Relations value.
Perhaps we'll find out in 2014 or so.