Protecting yourself and your work is increasingly vital as digital platforms proliferate and complex contractual issues make even the simplest arrangements difficult and potentially risky. Learn about the pitfalls of contracts and ways to preserve your rights before you enter into any agreement. If you’re ever in doubt about a legal matter, seek out an expert.
Oral contracts are legal, but they can’t be enforced under certain circumstances:
- The sale of goods valued over $500
- A contract with terms that cannot be performed within one year
- A lease lasting longer than one year
- The transfer of copyright
The bottom line: it’s always best to put your agreement in writing.
- Identifying who gets what
- Identifying who does what
- Payments, costs, and penalties (What happens after a specified number of revisions to the project?)
- Delivery terms and conditions
- Representations (The author represents that he/she wrote the song he/she is delivering and recording.)
- Ownership of intellectual property
- Length (How long will it take to complete?)
- Termination (How do you get out of the contract if either party isn’t meeting obligations or isn’t happy?)
- Is the contract exclusive? (Does it prevent you from generating revenue from other sources?)
- How hard is it to break?
- What financial issues are involved?
- What rights are granted?
- Are renewal terms included?
- What are the options for dispute resolution (arbitration or court) and choice of jurisdiction (local or elsewhere)?
- Is there an indemnification clause?
- What are the boilerplate (standardized) provisions?
When to Consult with an Attorney
- When you’re asked to sign something you don’t understand
- If you think the contract may not be in your best interests
- If the scope of the project is significantly larger than you’re used to
- If a great deal of money is involved
- If exclusivity or a long-term commitment is involved
- If the other party is represented by an attorney
These contract basics were provided by Casey Summar, former executive director of the Arts and Business Council of Greater Nashville.