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So, I’m just going over some requests for a script and I’m truly impressed how some companies are trying to try a potential case against them before the fact. How? Well my friends, it’s the arbitration clause.
No less than three requests came with releases that state, in effect, even if we do steal your material (or you think we did) our liability is limited. Very limited. And, you have to have an arbitrator decide it. None of those good entertainment lawyers for you, no sir.
Releases from a couple of well known and respected production companies had NO arbitration clause in their releases. And two companies did not require a release.
Suffice it to say, I pass on any release with an arbitration clause. They make ME more suspect of the company’s motives.
I wouldn't be overly afraid of a company or agency just because they ask you to sign an arbitration clause. It doesn't mean that you don't get a fancy entertainment lawyer - it just changes the forum. Instead of going to file a lawsuit in a courtroom you file a demand for arbitration.
Whether or not you'd get better justice in a courtroom is debatable. I know plenty of attorneys who swear that arbitration is cheaper, faster, and fairer for everyone involved. But in the end I wouldn't automatically cross a company that asked you to sign an arbitration clause off a list. It probably doesn't mean they're more likely to rip you off; their just using legal representation that recognizes a modern trend to get out of the judicial system when possible.
You don't understand. It's not just a matter of going to arbitration. The clauses are stating that even if they lose the case, they don't have to pay but bare minimums -- and sometimes that is described in detail how they can compute the maximum they would have to pay. All of this UPFRONT before anyone hears the case.
In effect: Let's say I want to borrow your car. Now I promise not to steal it, but if I do, I don't have to pay you but what I would normally pay someone for a similiar car. Mind you, it doesn't have to be the value of the car, just what I would pay. That's what some of these clauses are trying to accomplish.
It's not fair if you are agreeing to a maximum damage amount ahead of time. It makes the risk to a potential thief minimal.
I'm really not afraid of getting ripped off. But, I won't sign away any rights for damages if I do.
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