Star Wars taught me the importance of contract drafting. No, seriously! I was reading for an Entertainment Law course two years ago when I came across a case from the 1980s involving Lucasfilm, LTD and Platinum Record, Co. The lawsuit centered around a dispute over a contract which allowed director George Lucas to use four popular songs in his film American Graffiti, first released in 1973. The issue in the case didn’t arise until almost a decade later, when MCA Distributing Corp. (an affiliate of Universal) released the film for sale and to rent on videocassette, which Platinum Record argued was in violation of their contract.
By this point, you might be wondering what this has to do with ebooks (or Star Wars, for that matter). Well, last week U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald held that a 2011 ebook distribution deal signed by author Jean George violated an earlier, 1971 contract. The 1971 contract granted publisher HarperCollins the right to publish the children’s book Julie of the Wolves in “book form” and “electronic means now known or hereinafter invented.” This language in the contract is what caught my eye and provides an important lesson in contract drafting: think ahead.