In September 2021, I received an e-mail message from a representative of Fly on the Wall Entertainment, producers of Big Brother and other quality reality TV shows.
They asked me to use one of reality blurred’s headlines in an upcoming show starring Flipping Out’s Jeff Lewis.
The show was then called “The Untitled Jeff Lewis Project”; it’s premiering Friday as Amazon Freevee’s Hollywood Houselift with Jeff Lewis, which, based on the trailer, looks very similar to Flipping Out, just with all D-list clients.
According to an Amazon Studios press release, the show is “executive produced by Jeff Lewis, Allison Grodner, and Rich Meehan in association with Fly on the Wall Entertainment.”
Fly on the Wall’s rep asked for “permission to include one of your headlines in a new television program we are producing.”
I was happy for them to include a screenshot of the headline—publicity, woo hoo!—though I was curious why a show starring Jeff Lewis would want to include something critical of Jeff Lewis, so I also asked for context. They told me “a large part of the series is showing how much Jeff has grown and changed in the past few years” and my headline would be used as “part of explaining his past.”
While I am skeptical of Jeff Lewis’s actual growth—earlier this year, he used his talk show to share a conversation he had with his crying 5-year-old and blame his ex—that rationale for using the headline made sense to me.
In addition to sharing that, the representative from the production company wrote in the reply, “We just need to have our standard materials release signed.”
Shouldn’t be a problem, I thought. Then I read it, and wrote back, in part,
That makes sense to me, and I’ll be interested to see the show!
While I’m absolutely glad for it to use the headline, there’s no way I can or will sign this release. It’s not even worth having my lawyer look at, just because I can already see so many clauses I will not agree to, from giving up moral rights to promoting the appearance of my headline in the show.
What the Materials Release wanted me to give up
I did not sign the Materials Release, which is almost 1,000 words long.
Instead, I’m sharing it with you. You can see the full document below.
Let’s start with how Fly on the Wall Productions, producers of Big Brother, wanted me to give up both:
- “any moral rights or ‘droit moral’,” which effectively means giving up my copyright and ownership of my work, and
- “any right of action against Producer or any other party arising from or based upon any use or exploitation of the Recordings and/or Material, whether or not such use is or is claimed to be defamatory, untrue or censorable in nature”.
In other words, they could use it in an “untrue” or “defamatory” way, and I would not be able to take any action against them or anyone else.
Meanwhile, the contract also gave the producers the right:
- “to edit or delete the Recordings and/or the Material, juxtapose any part of the Recordings with the Material or any other materials … and make any other changes in the Recordings”
Should I trust the producers of Big Brother to “edit” and “make any other changes” it wants to my content? LOL
For giving up all these rights, I “shall not be accorded any credit for such use,” receive “no payment due in connection with the use of the Material in the Program,” and “agree to indemnify, defend and hold harmless Producer” should any legal action result from the headline’s inclusion.
Oh, just that?
And as a fun bonus, I would not be allowed to “publicize, advertise or promote the use of the Material in the Program or receive or generate any monetary advantage from the use of the Material in the Program” without getting written permission first. Does that mean that I’d have to ask the producers of Big Brother for permission to publish something on my own advertising-supported website?
All of this to show a headline for probably less than a second!
I have no doubt that this release is just standard, and it’s most likely that my headline would have appeared on screen for a fraction of a second, and everything would have been fine.
Still: Why would I agree to all that?
But just seeing this made me appreciate even more what they give up when agreeing to go on TV. Just consider how powerless I’d be for agreeing to get a flash of publicity (Maybe! If they gave me credit).
Here’s the unsigned release for you to read, with the especially ludicrous parts highlighted: