Following #MeToo, studios to include morality clause in contracts

Entertainment lawyer Schuyler Moore is among those who have started using the clause to protect clients from similar fates

After the Harvey Weinstein revelations and other cases of sexual harassment and rape that have come to the fore in the past few months, Hollywood studios and distributors have decided to include a ‘morality clause’ in their contracts.

Fox studio has reportedly also included the clause, which gives it the authority to terminate any contract among its talents if they ‘engage in conduct that results in adverse publicity or notoriety or risks bringing the talent into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule.

“Any distributor can say, ‘I’m not picking up this film if somebody involved in the film has some charge like that”

Production houses have had to suffer huge losses for replacing actors and directors accused of sexual harassment and misconduct. The cost of replacing Kevin Spacey with Christopher Plummer in Ridley Scott’s All The Money In The World was reportedly $10 million. Spacey’s contract compelled Netflix to pay his salary despite his ouster from the sixth season of House of Cards, according to the report.

Netflix also reportedly incurred a $39 million write-down following Spacey’s exit from its Gore Vidal movie. Netflix CFO David Wells told The Hollywood Reporter that the write-down was ‘related to the societal reset around sexual harassment’.

Entertainment lawyer Schuyler Moore is among those who have started using the clause to protect clients from similar fates. “Any distributor can say, ‘I’m not picking up this film if somebody involved in the film has some charge like that,’” Moore said.

Not all lawyers agree. “I’m all for [#MeToo]. I totally support it. But I think [broad morality clauses] create a bad precedent,” attorney Linda Lichter told media “It’s one thing to say someone is a criminal. It’s another thing to say someone has been accused by someone and you can fire them and not pay them.”

Published in Daily Times, February 9th 2018.