As reality TV shows featuring small businesses become increasingly popular, other entrepreneurs may be wondering how they can get a piece of the reality TV pie.
However, a better question may be how to deal with some of the legal issues that often accompany a business owner's 15 (or more) minutes of fame.
Before you sign up to be the next "Pawn Stars" or "Duck Dynasty," or even just to be featured in a commercial TV segment, consider these tips about protecting yourself and your business once you're in the limelight:
Don't Tune Out During Contract Talks.
Most small businesses on reality TV see a huge boost in sales after the airing of their shows. Case in point: Sales at the pawn shop featured on The History Channel's "Pawn Stars" is five times higher now than when the show began in 2009, reports the Associated Press.
Even though this agreement may be favorable for your company, reality TV contracts can potentially go sour by:
- Endangering your health. For exapmle, MTV's Real World participants sign contracts which absolve the network of any liability from STDs spread by other cast members.
- Inviting lawsuits by relations. Miami Heat player Chris Bosh sued his ex-girlfriend after she signed an agreement to go on VH1's "Basketball Wives," which he argued was trying to capitalize on their past relationship.
- Not paying you enough. Even though a show may be great windfall for your business, the contract should provide you with decent salary for appearing on TV, as well as any personality rights.
Remember Your Right of Publicity.
Generally, any TV production company seeking to use your likeness, name or persona has to pay you for the rights to use your image in commercial contexts, and the same may be true for your business.
Laws about the "right of publicity" vary from state to state, and in some states, your rights are only implicated when you become a celebrity or a public personality. The contract you sign when you go on TV may also spell out how your name, image, and business can be used commercially, and how you'll be compensated.
Sometimes, Reality TV Bites.
Getting a call from a reality TV producer may be exciting, but don't get reeled in too easily. You'll want to make sure the price is right, and that you (and your business) won't be cast in a negative light.
That's why it may be wise to consult an experienced media lawyer in your area before you enter contract talks. You don't want to leave any publicity money on the table, and you'll also want to have someone on your side in the event "lights" and "camera" is followed by "legal action."
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