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Monthly Archives: October 2009

Is ‘throughout the universe’ contract language broad enough?

Eriq Gardner at the Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog has got me thinking. In his post today he discusses a Wall Street Journal article that pokes fun at entertainment lawyers' use of  “throughout the universe, in perpetuity”  to define  the territorial scope and the term of rights being granted by a contract.

This kind of language is, of course, a relatively new inclusion in contracts, that used to cover “the world”.  But nowadays, with satellite communications technology, there's some question whether beaming a signal to an orbiting machine constitutes an exploitation of rights within the territory of “the world” or outside that territory… So, lawyers expanded the language to address that concern (however silly it may seem).   The fact is, NOT to have done so, might have left lawyers responsible for clients' missed opportunities to exploit their existing libraries of content in new media and areas  that transcend traditionally accepted territorial boundaries.  (The somewhat classic example of such an omission  is illustrated by Peggy Lee's lawsuit against Disney following the studio's release of “Lady and the Tramp” on video, when her contract didn't specifically authorize such exploitation of her performance in the film.)

In his parting shot, Gardner asks why these deals don't contemplate parallel universes.

Eriq, you've just made things more complicated for us lawyers.  Now that someone has raised the issue, some might argue that we're professionally obligated to consider that possibility and address it in our contracts.

So, with tongue planted only partly in-cheek, I propose that, henceforward,  we all agree to use the following language:

In any and all media, now known or hereafter devised, throughout this and any other universes, whether known, unknown, parallel, intersecting, obtuse or otherwise, throughout space, time and all other dimensions, whether now known or hitherto discovered, in perpetuity, or longer, as the case may be.


of course,  those who favor plain english in their contracts might prefer:

forever and ever, everywhere, no matter what.

let the comments begin.

Asked & Answered: I don’t have a formal contract. How do I make sure I get my credit?

q“Asked and Answered” is an occasional feature of this blog.  From time to time, I'll answer some of the most frequently asked questions I receive in my practice.

Q:  I applied to write a short for a small independent film company when they advertised for a writer.  I confirmed that I would write for credit only.

We went back and forth with story ideas and the director sent a couple of very rough drafts with just a few scenes to give an idea of what he wanted.  I finished the script and sent it to them and the producer told me they were happy and he would let me know when they were shooting it in case they needed changes.  I have not heard from them since and they are not responding to my emails.  It may be that the project has fallen apart but I have no way of knowing.  What is my position if they produce the script and do not give me a writing credit?

A: This question emphasizes the importance of the lawyers' mantra:  “get it in writing”.  In this case, a written agreement would have served BOTH parties. Continue Reading

My appearance on This Week in Law!

I'm honored to have been asked to join the panel of lawyers October 9th, for This Week in Law (TWIL) with Denise Howell.  This Week In Law is one of my favorite podcasts. I listen regularly, and look forward to being a part of it.

The episode has now been published.
Listen here:


Or visit <a href=”> </a>

We'll be streaming live  (with video) on the twit netcast network, October 9th, from 11am to 1pm.  I hope you'll join us.  It should be fun!

UPDATE:  What a fun time I had.  Here's hoping I'm asked back again.  Thanks Denise!

Asked & Answered: Should a writing team wait to have an agreement among themselves?

“Asked and Answered” is an occasional feature of this blog.  From time to time, I’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions I receive in my practice. This is intended as general information only and  does not establish an attorney-client relationship.  It is not a substitute for a private, independent consultation with an attorney… Continue Reading

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