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Thread: The American Idol Contract

  1. #21
    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).
    Last edited by pepper; 05-27-2003 at 04:33 PM.

  2. #22
    The race is back! John's Avatar
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    Interesting, but I would argue that Clay was finalist #2, and that Vanessa and Charles were finalists number 12 and 11.

  3. #23
    And that's what 19 E would argue. But when Clay signed the contract, it was assumed there would only be 10 finalists, and thus Clay wouldn't have been on the show to make it to number 2.

    In addition, if 19 E meant that the contract only applied to the 10 contestants still on the show after the first two (Vanessa and perhaps Charles, whose position is questionable because of Corey) had been voted off, then that's what the contract should have said. Which presumably it doesn't.

    And that's what Clay's lawyers would argue.
    Last edited by pepper; 05-27-2003 at 04:50 PM.

  4. #24
    eternal optimist Shazzer's Avatar
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    And you say you're not a lawyer, pepper?

    Your analysis was a fun read.

    I'm likin' this thread, hazyshadeof
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  5. #25
    Ruben is "Soulful" pillbeam's Avatar
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    Apr 2003
    Hi Hazy,

    Thanks so much for this thread, and I do recall reading the Salon article last year. While the passages do call for total control of the finalists and their images, the contract specifically says the control is "in connection with the AI series." So, I've wondered whether that means the finalists could eventually strike out on their own if they perform songs unconnected with AI or their time on the show. In other words, could this be a sort of agreed-upon (future) loophole for the contestants?

    This leads into the next question, but has Kelly toured by herself in concert? If not, I would hate to think I couldn't see Ruben in concert solo cuz I'm not too thrilled about having to sit through Josh and Carmen's vocalizing while waiting for the VT Bear to sing ("in perpetuity").
    Last edited by pillbeam; 05-27-2003 at 07:25 PM.

  6. #26
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    I don't know for sure - the preliminary contract that any finalist signs I am sure differs from the original one.

    I'm half tempted to have one of my younger friends from law school go audition next year just so I can get a peek at the contract myself.

    This thread was dead, what sparked it's return? It was interesting I though, however.
    I know someday you'll have a beautiful life, I know you'll be a star in somebody else's eyes... but why... why... why can't it be me?

  7. #27
    FORT Fogey
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  8. #28
    Well, my first post here

    I'm going into law school soon and am currently clerking at a prominent San Francisco law firm which specializes in corporate law, including contracts, acquisitions, mergers, strict-liablity, etc.

    I called up one of the lawyers there and posed this question to them. He says that the final 10 arguement by 19E that would make Clay #2 would more than likely be accepted by the court. Also, he said that if they were not forced to sign another contract, especially after the finalists were changed to 12, that was gross negligence on the part of the AI lawyers.

    He does submit, however, that if Kelly or one of the other finalists who are under this life-time contract were to attempt to challenge it after they had made a name for themselves independent of American Idol they would have a decent chance to get out of the contract, even with the air-tight contract they had to sign, with the right lawyers and the right judge.

    This would have to be AT LEAST 5 years down the line for any of the contestants, so we will just have to wait and see.

    Should be fun to see in 5 years

  9. #29
    Loaded God Complex MajiH's Avatar
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    OMG, Hazy! That avatar is FABULOUS!

  10. #30
    I am a lawyer specialising in employment and commercial contracts so this is esp of interest to me.

    It is my view that the argument that Clay is finalist No. 11 in AI and therefore the contract would not apply to him because it refers only to 10 finalists would not hold any water... For the very simple reason that courts in interpreting contracts always look to the intention of the parties in situations of dispute... n in this case.. it is very clear that the contract is intended by both signatories to the contract to apply to to a finalist of AI.. so the fact that AI decided to increase the number of finalists would not negate the binding effect of the contract

    However, the contract is undoubtedly not a life time contract.. similar to the above.. the courts will interpret the contract to reflect the intention of the parties.. based on evidence n common sense.. if there is no timeline stipulated within the contract it does not mean that it is a lifetime contract.. it does imply an indefinite term which leaves it open to either party to terminate the contract after a period of time.. should the other party object to the termination of the contract the court will be the next recourse and the court will look to examine the reasonableness of the contract and decide what is a reasonable period a typical contract of that nature is intended to last.. there is no way the court is going to hold that this contract is to last forever...

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