Turns out the term “Hollywood Contract” is not an oxymoron after all. Not if you follow the three-part series Why Every Writing Team Should Have a Written Collaboration Agreement over at Theater and Entertainment Law. And don’t think you don’t need one of these if you are part of a young writing team just starting in business with a friend. I recently mediated a litigated dispute between two life-long friends with the loss of the friendship being the highest cost of the parties’ failure to spell out the terms of their agreement.
An ounce of IP Prevention is worth a pound of litigation cure.
As blogger and entertainment attorney Gordon P. Firemark explains:
In the absence of a collaboration agreement, the parties may or may not be considered partners. The work they create may or may not be considered a “joint work”, and thus ownership and control of the disposition of the work called into question. While it is true that these issues tend only to arise in situations where the team has broken up, or is in the process of doing so, the existence of a collaboration agreement can be useful in managing the parties’ separation. In some respects, a collaboration agreement is the creative team’s equivalent of a prenuptial agreement. But in many cases the collaboration agreement can be much much more.
By negotiating the terms of the collaboration agreement at the outset of the work, the parties can uncover differences in their expectations, and avoid problems that might otherwise arise later. In the absence of a collaboration agreement, the parties’ efforts may be lost if there’s no meeting of the minds, and the project may simply wind up being abandoned… or mired in litigation. Obviously, it is important to work with a lawyer to craft a workable contract that’s tailored to your team’s specific circumstances.