Milo Yiannopoulos Sues Simon & Schuster – Bet They Wish They Had a Morals Clause, but What’s a Morals Clause?

by  | Jul 11, 2017 |

According to the lawsuit he filed on Friday, July 7, 2017, Simon & Schuster refused to publish his most recent book, Dangerous, because of allegations that public statements he made condoned pedophilia[1].

 What’s a “Morals Clause”

It’s a provision routinely included in contracts for celebrity endorsers, professional athletes, newscasters, TV actors, and various other people whose effectiveness and/or salability depends upon the public’s perception of them. Going back to 1972, Marilyn Chambers, the fresh faced young mother holding the infant on the Ivory Snow detergent box  starred in Behind the Green Door, which was considered extremely hard core pornography at that time. This was obviously at odds with the pure and wholesome image Proctor & Gamble wanted the public to associate with its product. Typically, morals clauses allow the company to cancel the contract if the individual is charged with or convicted of a serious crime or conduct which is immoral or widely viewed by the public as reprehensible.Can’t Simon & Schuster Refuse to Publish any Book? Read More

 What Will the Main Issues be in Milo’s Case?

From Fatty Arbuckle to The House Un-American Activities Committee to Charlie Sheen to Brian Williams – How did Morals Clauses Come About and How Have They Been Used[3]?

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Morals Clauses started in 1921 when Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, a very famous silent film star at that time, was arrested and charged with the rape and murder of a young starlet who had been found in his hotel room.  Although the evidence against him was slim and he was found not guilty of all charges, the sensational “yellow journalism” of the day convicted him in the court of public opinion. Widespread outrage at “Hollywood Immorality” prompted the entertainment industry to use Morals Clauses in every contract to protect them from having to continue to pay stars who stepped in scandal, as well as to appease their audiences.

Thirty years later, the House Un-American Activities Committee, at the height of the Cold War in the early 1950s, investigated alleged Communist infiltration of the motion picture industry.

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The next big splash in this area was Charlie Sheen’s contract for Two and a Half Men, which had a very weak Morals Clause,requiring commision of a felony offense involving moral turpitude. This put Warner Bros. TV on shaky legal ground for firing him despite his clearly outrageous behavior, and they had to fall back on the argument that his cocaine use impaired his ability to adequately perform. Sheen sued for $100M, and although the settlement was confidential, it was clearly substantial.

Fast forward to 2015, when Brian Williams, who had just signed a $10M contract with NBC, publicly gave several variations of a false account of a March 2003 helicopter ride during the U.S. invasion of Iraq which he was forced to take back and apologize. His credibility with the public plummeted, and NBC, which could clearly have terminated his contract based on an ironclad Morals Clause in his contract, decided on a six month unpaid suspension instead.

The long and short of this is that every contract is different, and the outcome in each situation is, and will continue to be, determined based on the wording the parties agreed upon when they sat down with their lawyers and made their deal.

[1] As everyone who follows Milo Yiannopoulos knows, he is openly gay, vigorously denies that he has ever advocated pedophilia, and claims that his widely publicized remarks which led to his departure from Breitbart News referred favorably to a relationship he had with a man who was 29 when he was 17. 16 was the legal age of consent in the UK, where this took place. Milo also posted a statement on his Facebook page (which is attached to his complaint as Ex. “I”) denying that his public remarks ever condoned pedophilia. Whether Milo’s remarks expressed approval of pedophilia or not is a question which is not addressed here; it is merely assumed that Milo made public statements which were very heavily criticized.

[2] The NFL contract, for example, allows the club to terminate the player, “if, at any time, in the sole judgment of the Club,….[the] player has engaged in personal conduct reasonably judged by the Club to adversely affect or reflect on the Club.” , http://static.nfl.com/static/content/public/image/cba/nfl-cba-2006-2012.pdf ¶ 11, p. 252.

[3] For an excellent history of the law in this area, see, Morals Clauses, Past, Present and Future, Caroline Epstein, NYU Journal of Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law, Vol. 5, No. 1.

[4] Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. v. Lardner, 216 F.2d 844, (9th Cir. 1954); Scott v. RKO Radio Pictures, Inc., 240 F.2d 87, (9th Cir. 1957)

Freelance Isn’t Free

Author: William Cafaro

Important New Rights for Freelancers in NYC

  “Freelance Isn’t Free” Bill Passes in NYC, What Does it Mean?

New York City Passes Freelancer Wage Protection Law

The new law covers individuals who provide services, and is only available in the City of New York:

New York City | Queens | Brooklyn | The Bronx

What Does This New Law Mean for Me, as a Freelancer?

It basically gives you the same state law labor rights as employees have. This is HUGE.  It gives you the right to double damages  – $2,000.00 for every $1,000.00 of the agreed price of the work.

If you win, the company will have to pay you a 100% penalty, plus your attorneys’ fees and your court costs.

Why will it be different now?

What if the company never gave me anything in writing saying how much I’d be paid?

What Practical Difference Will this new “ Freelance Isn’t Free” law mean to me?

Read More

Freelance Isn't Free NYC Bill

Now, a lot of companies just aren’t paying you because you have so few legal rights, and they’re just not worried about you suing them. Until this law was passed, most lawyers were not willing to do these cases for a percentage of what they got for you at the end (this is called a “contingency fee”, explained above); they wanted you to pay their legal bills by the hour up front, which you couldn’t afford to do. THIS CHANGES ALL THAT.

If I was hired to do the job by a single individual, as opposed to a company, will this law apply?

Yes, it will.

I consider myself a Freelancer, but how do I know if I can use this new law?

When is this law going into effect?

On May 16, 2017. It will only apply to contracts entered into on or after the effective date

“If you are one of the bottom 99% of the workforce and find yourself at the mercy of the 1%, who own and manage businesses, it is our law firm’s mission to represent you and protect your legal rights. We understand how easy it is for the powerful to take advantage of the little guy. When you need legal help to resolve a troubling employment issue, we are here for you. We are experienced trial lawyers who take pride in fighting for our clients.”  ~ Bill Cafaro

Where can I find the new law?

New York City Passes Freelancer Wage Protection Law: “Freelance Isn’t Free” Here’s the link

 

Leeds Brown Law, P.C., Represents Nassau County Police Officer

leeds brown law

PARTNER RICK OSTROVE WINS ON BEHALF OF POLICE OFFER

Nassau County Police Officer Wins After 6 Years of Desk Duty

Leeds Brown Law, P.C., representing a Nassau County police officer, received an award of $129,500 for emotional damages and a loss of overtime in a civil discrimination lawsuit. As reported by Newsday, the officer’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act were violated, resulting in discrimination and limited duties. Partner Rick Ostrove explained, “He is excited to get back to work as a full-duty police officer and help protect the public.” Full Article

Author of Newsday article: Nicole.fuller@newsday.com
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