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If you work with a writing partner, is it advisable to have a contract between you?

By Robert L. Seigel

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Question: If you work with a writing partner, is it advisable to have a contract between you at the very start? Is this a common practice and if so, how well would such a legal document stand up in court or arbitration?

In any collaboration, it is a sound notion for the parties to understand the terms of that relationship especially in a writing since memories tend to fade with the passage of time. It is like a pre-nuptual agreement which is usually written early in a relationship especially since the stakes are low and third party interest and money offers are somewhat down the road. The agreement should address such issues as what the parties will be contributing to the relationship, how are monies to be allocated between them, how are decisions to be made, what if one party leaves the collaboration or dies or becomes incapacitated. If these issues are addressed and set down in a writing signed by the parties, the parties should hope that the agreement will only be referred to by the parties if a dispute should arise between the parties so that the parties know how the dispute should be resolved (through good faith discussion, mediation, arbitration, litigation). Assuming the collaboration agreement sets forth the terms and various scenarios, it should be enforceable in a court or in an arbitration proceeding similar to any other binding contract. This is one of the reasons why an attorney should be engaged to write the agreement since the cost of having the agreement prepared may be much less of an overall cost than the ill-will generated between the parties when a dispute gets out of hand.

About Robert L. Seigel

Robert L. Seigel ([email protected]) is a NYC entertainment attorney and a partner in the Cowan DeBaets Abrahams & Sheppard LLP law firm which specializes in the representation of clients in the entertainment and media areas.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided here is intended to provide general information and does not constitute legal advice. You should not act or rely on such information without seeking the advice of an attorney and receiving counsel based on your particular facts and circumstances. Many of the legal principles mentioned might be subject to exceptions and qualifications, which are not necessarily noted in the answers. Furthermore, laws are subject to change and vary by jurisdiction.
Screenwriting Article by Robert L. Seigel

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