Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine has been one of the coaches on the NBC singing show The Voice for years, and he’s about to become the face of a new spinoff called Songland, a competition show for songwriters rather than singers. But while most reality-show contracts are exploitative, it looks like the Songland contracts might go way beyond that. From the looks of things, anyone who competes on the show will be signing away all rights to all songs; NBC will own everything.
As the Wrap reports, entertainment lawyer Wallace Collins had a look at the contracts and wrote a LinkedIn blog post about them on Friday, noting that contestants would be signing away all rights to their songs, including they songs they used to audition. Here’s the troubling part of the contract:
I represent and warrant that I own all rights to such Music and that no third party has any right, title or interest in and/or to the Music, and I grant Producer the right to record, reproduce and publicly perform any such music in and in connection with the Program or any other work. Without in any way limiting the waivers and releases set forth herein, I waive any claims to royalties of any kind, whether accruing now or in the future, from Producer and NBCUniversal for the use of any such Music or any other music, including, without limitation, any applicable copyright, public performance, mechanical and synchronization royalties.
This is after the Songland website promised that potential contestants “will keep intact all Trademark, copyright, and other intellectual property notices.”
More recently, as the Wrap reports, NBC changed the language of the contract so that it would only apply to contestants on the show, rather than anyone applying to be on the show. Here’s what it says now:
If I [the entrant] am selected to be a participant on the Program I grant Producer the right to record, reproduce and publicly perform any such Music in and in connection with the Program … I waive any claims to royalties of any kind, whether accruing now or in the future, from Producer and NBCUniversal for the use of any such Music or any other music, including, without limitation, any applicable public performance, mechanical and synchronization royalties in connection with the development, production, distribution, advertising, promotion, exhibition or other exploitation of the Program.
But that’s still not great! Collins guesses that NBC’s legal department was just being “over inclusive” and trying to cover any potentially sticky situations. But from the way it looks now, the show almost looks like a front that allows NBC to get the rights to a lot of potential hit songs.
UPDATE: The contract has been changed in response to the backlash, Billboard reports. “There has been some confusion around the casting application for Songland,” executive producer Audrey Morrissey told Billboard in a statement. “We wish to be abundantly clear that by signing the casting application, songwriters do not transfer ownership of any of their original songs. This show is truly a celebration of songwriters and their craft.” The updated passage of the contract now reads:
As part of my application to participate in the Program, I may or will be required to submit an original, unpublished song and other musical material (collectively, the “Music”), for which I hold and shall continue to hold all copyrights and ownership therein.
Here’s Collins response to the change:
Not sure if it was all a corporate oversight or if this is a ‘just kidding’ reaction to being called on it, but tens of thousands of songwriters speaking out together made a difference. At least now it appears that they make no claim to rights in any songs from those who are not chosen for the TV show. Those lucky enough to be selected for the show may be required to agree to additional obligations later, but at least they will have the choice at that time.