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Reality TV Lawsuits

Narrative storytelling isn’t the only format that must be concerned with clearance issues.

High-Profile Reality TV Lawsuits

Reality TV lawsuits make for interesting headlines.

From Dating Naked to True Life: I’m a Chubby Chaser, reality television is no stranger to lawsuits.

Many of the television producers we serve work in the arena of reality television entertainment, and our legal team felt it relevant to bring this issue to light for those outside of The Clearance Lab fold.

This is especially important if you plan to make documentary-style television in the near future. Without further ado, here are a few brief glimpses into the strange world of reality TV lawsuits.

Dating Naked

Not exactly what they thought they were signing up for.

In 2015, a Dating Naked contestant sued the airing network for $10 million. Even though the nature of the show dictates an adult/risqué nature, the show was expected to blur nudity; however, the plaintiff claims too much was shown.

To read more about the case: this article outlines the not-so-blurry details.

The short version is best summed up by the Plaintiff, Jessie Nizewitz. According to the Plaintiff:

“Although I went on this show knowing that I would be nude while taping, I was told that my private parts would be blurred for TV.”

The lesson here is to pay very specific attention to contract language, and before distributing your project have a legal professional review your final cut for clearance issues, and to ensure that proper clearance procedures have been followed.  If you’re worried about exposure, and you should be, put a legal professional in your corner.

Storage WarsA Storage Wars personality was also surrounded by legal turmoil. In 2012, the cast member sued the producers for $750,000. His claim stated that everything on the reality TV show was either misrepresented or totally faked.

To read more about this legal claim, check out this article.

This was not a one-sided claim.  According to the network A&E:

“Convert[ed] a garden-variety breach of contract claim into a tabloid-worthy drama, in which Hester portrays himself as a crusading whistleblower.”

The takeaway from this case is to pay close attention to the people you work with, always remember that this is a business no matter how well you may get along with the talent,  and always ensure the proper language is included in your talent agreements.  If you draw up any contracts on your own, have a legal professional review it before execution.

In 2013, a True Life: I’m a Chubby Chaser contributor brought a lawsuit against the production company. The reason: his real name and details about his address were revealedTrue Life: I'm a Chubby Chaser on camera. 

To learn more about the case, including interview details from the Plaintiff, read this article.

Suffice it to say, emotional distress served as the catalyst for the case. According to the Plaintiff:

“I no longer felt safe leaving my apartment, and I lost my job as a result.”

The emotional distress factor is not uncommon when it comes to reasons behind lawsuits, even though it is difficult to prove in court. However, there are measures you can take to protect yourself from unnecessary scrutiny.

The lesson to be learned here is to ensure all identifying properties are removed from your final release. If you want to  bulletproof your project as much as possible, then you need a legal review of clearance procedures before distribution.  The entire lawsuit in the Chubby Chaser case could have been avoided with a proper review of the footage.

To learn more about how The Clearance Lab can help you protect your reality television project, contact us today.