Ever since those "Real World" housemates stopped being polite and started being real, actor hopefuls and super-fans alike have wanted to be reality TV stars.
But before you sign a contract to eat maggots off of Joe Rogan's feet for a chance at $10,000, you should consider the following legal tips:
1. Read Your Contract.
Just like with any other contract, you should read any reality TV show agreement carefully and completely.
Be sure to look out for the following provisions:
- "In case of breach." Many contracts will anticipate ahead of time what should happen if either party breaks the agreement in the contract or breaches.
- Arbitration provision. These legal snippets force the parties to a contract to go to arbitration before suing, and often the drafter chooses to arbitrate in the state most legally favorable to them.
- Liquidated damages. Placed in contracts to ensure that if you skip out early on your contract or fail to finish a job in time, you will pay for it.
Be sure to consult with an attorney about any provisions in your reality show contract you don't understand because ignorance is generally not a valid contract excuse.
2. You Can Change the Agreement.
You will be stuck with the language in the contract once you and the TV production company both sign it, so make sure that you like what you're signing.
Here's one way to do this: If the History Channel gives you a standard form contract with provisions you don't care for, cross those lines out and then sign.
Until both parties sign, the form is simply an invitation for you to make the company an offer, and since you are the master of any offer you make, why not make the contract something you'd actually want to sign?
3. Remember Your Right of Publicity.
Often, the sweetest plum of any TV contract is the right of publicity, which is tested any time a reality show uses your likeness, persona, or name to make money.
Under this right, TV production companies will have to pay you every time they feature your personality to make money, and you should make sure that they are paying through the nose.
- Amy's Baking Co. Gets Legal Threat Over Relaunch Plans (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice)
- Real World Cast Member Contract: MTV is Not Liable for Your STDs (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice)
- When Will a Promise or Statement Be Considered a Binding Contract? (FindLaw)
- Get an Attorney to Look Over Your Contract With a Legal Plan From LegalStreet (LegalStreet.com)
(Disclosure: LegalStreet and FindLaw.com are owned by the same company.)