By John G. Browning
Editor’s note: The following story is reprinted with permission from the Fall 2013 Texas Entertainment and Sports Law Journal. Read more from the Journal here.
Once upon a time, if you mentioned the topics of “social media” and “contract clauses” in the same sentence to entertainment industry big shots, they would associate it with a way to limit entertainers from discussing their projects on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking platforms.
As recently as October 2009, the Hollywood Reporter was revealing that “there’s a growing number of studio deals with new language aimed specifically at curbing usage of social-media outlets by actors, execs, and other creatives.”1
The article further reported that, due to concern about confidential information being leaked out over social networks, studios like Disney and DreamWorks had added clauses requiring actors and others not to share information “via interactive media such as Facebook, Twitter, or any other interactive social network or personal blog.”2
The overriding concern, apparently, was related to celebrities who jumped the gun on official announcements before studio spinmeisters had a chance to break the news; one example given was Paula Abdul, who announced her decision to leave “American Idol” via Twitter and surprised Fox executives.
But fast forward a few years to 2013, and now studios, agents, and talent in the entertainment and sports realms regularly sit down to negotiate how much social media activity the actor or athlete will be required to engage in as a way of supporting his or her work and burnishing a brand image. What accounts for the new change in attitude?