I've been spending the past few days figuring out ways Clay could get out of his 19 E contract. I'm not a lawyer, but I do have a good problem solving mind and came up with a nice big full of revenge fantasy approach that I would have cheerfully shared with Clay if he'd known to call!
But this afternoon I had a great Perry Mason moment which made the whole situation so much easier for Clay.
Okay- let's start with the following assumptions. Clay is indebted to 19 E. 19 E would like to make more money off of Clay. 19 E, RCA, and Clay are all aware that his CD is selling very well on Amazon. Clay does not want to be owned for life by 19 E. 19 E wants to own Clay for life. I think these are all fair assumptions.
Here's my Perry Mason realization. Clay signed the contract as did 69,999 other people before having the chance to audition. The contract specifically refers to the 10 Finalists.
Clay was not one of the ten finalists, as was intended when he signed the contract. At that point there was no known plan to have the finals include 12 finalists. The previous season had only had ten. If American Idol had known when handing out those contracts that there were going to be 12 finalists, it would have put 12 finalists in the contract rather than 10. Unless 19 E had all the wildcards sign an additional contract, Carmen (finalist #11) and Clay (finalist #12) should be excluded from the legal obligations of the 10 finalists.
Now it could be argued that Corey had in effect been a final ten because he committed fraud, and therefore he doesn't count. That would push Carmen to number 10. But Clay was the last one named, so he'd still be number 11.
Obviously this is a loophole, and presumably 19 E would argue that the final ten referred to the 10 last contestants on the show (thus eliminating Vanessa and possibly Charles), although this argument seems weak to me if the show had been asked to expand to 12 finalists after the audition contracts were signed. Or they might claim that Clay was voted in before the three judges picked their wildcard finalists (making Clay finalist #9). A good lawyer should be able to argue that until Clay was announced in public as a finalist, he was not one (after all, suppose a bomb had fallen on the stage right after Simon announced he'd picked Carmen, maiming and killing enough people that Fox, in a rare display of good taste, cancelled the show on the spot. Clay would never have been declared a finalist).
What lawyers for both sides know is that such a lawsuit wouldn't be brought by Clay to rid himself of 19 E forever. It would be to improve his status- enable him, for example, to acquire marketing rights on T shirts with his image, just as long as they don't say American Idol on them.
If the Super Duper Warp Drive Powers That Be (TPTB over TPTB at 19E) think it in their best interests to keep Clay happy (and he always has the threat of quitting show business and returning to teaching), they'll renegotiate. And heck, if I can come up with such a lovely loophole, I'm sure any lawyers hired by Clay could figure it out as well (and if not, they can call me).