The Standard Consent Agreement That Protects Sacha Baron Cohen

July 20, 2018

By Steven E. Helland

Borat Movie PosterSacha Baron Cohen just premiered his latest television work, “Who Is America?” Ever since Cohen’s earlier works such as “Borat,” I have wondered: What kind of a “consent agreement” or “release” did those people sign, that seems to have effectively shielded Cohen and his team from legal liability?

Below is the answer: a full-text copy of the Standard Consent Agreement Cohen appears to have used for “Borat,” and perhaps for other films/works, according to court documents from In Re: Kathie Martin v. Sacha Baron Cohen, et. al., Supreme Court of Alabama, # 1061288, Jan 18, 2008.

I am not taking any position on the quality of or ethics behind Cohen’s work. I only want to share and highlight a highly effective behind-the-scenes legal document.

I have rendered in bold and italics below some unique elements of the Borat Release.

Standard Consent Agreement

This is an agreement between Springland Films (the Producer) and the undersigned participant (the Participant). In exchange for the Producer’s obligation to pay a participation fee in the amount of $350 (receipt of which is acknowledged by the Participant) and the opportunity for the Participant to appear in a motion picture, the Participant agrees as follows:

1. The Participant agrees to be filmed and audiotaped by the Producer for a documentary-style film (the ‘Film’). It is understood that the Producer hopes to reach a young adult audience by using entertaining content and formats.

2. The Participant agrees that any rights that the Participant may have in the Film or the Participant’s contribution to the Film are hereby assigned to the Producer, and that the Producer shall be exclusively entitled to use, or to assign or license to others the right to use, the Film and any recorded material that includes the Participant without restriction in any media throughout the universe in perpetuity and without liability to the Participant, and the Participant hereby grants any consents required for those purposes. The Participant also agrees to allow the Producer, and any of its assignees or licensees, to use the Participant’s contribution, photograph, film footage, and biographical material in connection not only with the Film, but also in any advertising, marketing or publicity for the Film and in connection with any ancillary products associated with the Film.

[Section 3 was omitted from this court document, but here is Section 3 from what appears to be a near-identical document in a similar case against Cohen] 3. The Participant understands that the Producer and its assignees or licensees are relying upon this consent agreement in spending time, money and effort on the Film and the Participant’s participation in it, and that the consent agreement, for this and other reasons, shall be irrevocable.

4. The Participant specifically, but without limitation, waives, and agrees not to bring at any time in the future, any claims against the Producer, or against any of its assignees or licensees or anyone associated with the Film, that include assertions of (a) infringement of rights of publicity or misappropriation (such as any allegedly improper or unauthorized use of the Participant’s name or likeness or image), (b) damages caused by ‘acts of God’ (such as, but not limited to, injuries from natural disasters), (c) damages caused by acts of terrorism or war, (d) intrusion (such as any allegedly offensive behavior or questioning or any invasion of privacy), (e) false light (such as any allegedly false or misleading portrayal of the Participant), (f) infliction of emotional distress (whether allegedly intentional or negligent), (g) trespass (to property or person), (h) breach of any alleged contract (whether the alleged contract is verbal or in writing), (i) allegedly deceptive business or trade practices, (j) copyright or trademark infringement, (k) defamation (such as any allegedly false statements made on the Film), (l ) violations of Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act (such as allegedly false or misleading statements or suggestions about the Participant in relation to the Film or the Film in relation to the Participant), (m) prima facie tort (such as alleged intentional harm to the Participant), (n) fraud (such as any alleged deception or surprise about the Film or this consent agreement), (o) breach of alleged moral rights, or (p) tortious or wrongful interference with any contracts or business of the Participant, or any claim arising out of the Participant’s viewing of any sexually-oriented materials or activities.

[Section 5, also copied form a near-identical document in a similar case] 5. This is the entire agreement between the Participant and the Producer or anyone else in relation to the Film, and the Participant acknowledges that, in entering into it, the Participant is not relying upon any promises or statements made by anyone about the nature of the Film of the identity of any other Participants or persons involved in the Film.

6. Although the Participant agrees not to bring any claim in connection with the Film or its production, if any claim nevertheless is made, the Participant agrees that any such claim must be brought before, and adjudicated by, only a competent court located in the State of New York and County of New York, under the laws of the State of New York.