'Survivor' contestants owe $5 million if they spill secrets

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'Survivor' contestants owe $5 million if they spill secrets

Wed Sep 01, 2010 @ 12:50PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Home_survivor_2007 CBS is having trouble keeping a lid on the contract that contestants must sign to appear on "Survivor," and the content of the deal is pretty interesting.

The form contract was published a few months ago as a Scribd document by the Reality Blurred website. According to an update by the site yesterday, a CBS lawyer in New York sent a takedown notice to Scribd in July, claiming that "[s]uch copying and use of this material constitutes clear infringement of the Rights Owner's copyrights under the Copyright Act, including the DMCA, and its counterpart laws around the world."

Scribd initially took down the document but Reality Blurred challenged the copyright claim. Scribd then asked CBS for more information. The network allegedly never responded, so the contract is back online.

So what does the 32-page contract actually say?

As in most reality show deals, contestants must sign away various rights and not hold CBS liable for a multitude of claims. For instance, contestants agree they'll be subjecting themselves to risks including "severe mental stress," agree to be considered an "employee of Producer" for the purposes of workers' compensation only, and agree not to defame the producer or CBS. 

Contestants also promise to keep prize winnings secret, be available for press, submit to psychological exams and lie detector tests, refuse contact with past cast members until after the finale, and give CBS an exclusive option to enter them into "a talent hold agreement."

The penalty for violating the confidentiality agreement is $5 million.

CBS isn't alone among television networks in struggling to keep its reality show secrets. 

In the U.K., the BBC has recently been attempting to use tortious interference and trademark claims to keep the identity of its masked character on "Top Gear" from coming to light in a book.

This, however, is the first instance we're aware of where copyright has been used by a studio to stop the publishing of a talent contract.

UPDATE: CBS had no comment. We've asked around, however, and found there may be a dispute as to whether CBS received any counter notices from Scribd. 

UPDATE2: Here is the counter notice that Reality Blurred sent Scribd.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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