Friday, May 30, 2014

Can We Get Out of Video Release?

Dear Rich: My 16 year old son has a service dog and over the years we've been contacted many times to do interviews about their relationship. We always oblige because it supports Canine Companions for Independence, the organization that provided this amazing dog. Recently, I was contacted by an independent associate producer who requested an interview. Although I asked about who they were and who they were associated with, she kept her answers vague and led me to believe that they were simply an independent documentary film crew who wanted to create this project and then try to get funding for it. The producer came and did the interview yesterday, did not photograph the dog in his working vest, nor did he ask to see the dog perform any of his 43 assistance commands. Researching him the next day, it seems he has a very religious agenda that he was not at all forthcoming about and now I worry that both my and my son's interviews will be used to support ideals we do not agree with. Unfortunately, I signed a release (the standard, we-own-everything-in-perpetuity kind.) Can I revoke/rescind or am I out of luck? That depends ... Your son's release. As a general rule, your son can void an agreement signed while under the age of consent (18 in most states) prior to reaching the age of consent. We explained these rules in a previous post. So, he should be able to announce that he disaffirms the agreement and that the company has no rights to his interview. If you or another adult has co-signed your son's agreement, that may make things more complicated. You may still be able to void your son's agreement but you should probably seek the advice of an attorney before proceeding.
Your release.  If a person is fraudulently induced to enter into an agreement, then the contract can also be voided, relieving the parties of their obligations. Fraud could be a lie or the concealment of the truth -- something misleading upon which you had a good reason to act. So, your right to terminate depends on the degree to which you were misled by the company. If you feel you were fraudulently induced to sign the release,  a lawyer's assistance would be helpful. The company may find these contract arguments more persusasive if presented by an attorney.
Practically ... We usually don't prescribe a lawyer's advice but halting the use of video footage -- especially before it's released --  sometimes requires a strong advocate. It may be worth the cost of a few hours of legal time to avoid an uncomfortable association.

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