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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.

3 Responses to Is ‘throughout the universe’ contract language broad enough?

  1. When necessary, I always attempt to reserve Mars as a territorial cut-out somewhat as an effort for it to be used as proof that the term was negotiated and not rote language.

    And who knows, my clients might end up being HUGE with Martians. You never know.

    • Good points. Some of the folks I’ve encountered in my practice seem to be FROM Mars, but audiences there are notoriously small, which probably explains why they’re working here.

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