As I don’t watch talent-finding competitions, the issue has never been of much interest to me. Much about them seemed contrived, overdone, following a worn-out script designed to attract gawkiness and through it heaps of money.
However, speculation around shows such as The X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent only scratched the surface; there is a video detailing an actual contract one has to sign when auditioning for the latter.
Among the most disturbing aspects are the following.
Contestants sign over the rights to any intellectual property they have ever produced, to the company, to be used as the company sees fit.
Remember that old scene from Friends with the Smelly Cat song being sold to a company to be turned into a jingle? A small odd example, but that could literally happen to a contestant’s precious work of years or decades.
Imagine that, giving away your every composition, be it musical, written, filmed etc, to a pack of corporate sharks who put nothing towards it. Creating is a very intimate process and involves a lot of emotional attachment. Sometimes it evolves out of deep feelings a person has while going through a powerful life experience.
And technically, should it be found of some commercial value by the company, it could be used in any way. Technically, they could take a song you composed after the death of a loved one five years prior to auditioning and use it in an advert for kitty litter.
The same applies to content posted on social media, such as a channel on any given topic. They will now own years of putting hours and hours into an organic project of your own making. All that for the prospect of being controlled by them in the future.
Obviously, as the video details, anything you released that they find unpalatable, such as blogs or videos, is now at their discretion, to be left online or taken down. That could be years of time and effort invested, simply wiped away by your new owners.
If that is not selling your soul, I don’t know what is.
Contestants sign over their rights to their own image.
Anything ever released in public, containing your image, will belong to the company. That includes past, present and future material.
Which means you can no longer retrieve previously posted material should you choose to do so, and should the company decide to leave it online, it’s staying there.
When merely grasping at a chance to become famous, a person possibly doesn’t consider the carelessly posted images or footage hardly anyone has an interest in except for friends or family. Should they want to remove it later, they’ll have to go through their new owners.
Of course this applies to any footage, even personal (family holiday photos etc) for the duration of the contract. Hell, they’ll own your wedding photos I suppose, if they are publicly shared, and of course that cannot happen without their permission (details below).
Now consider this situation: someone hacks your computer or phone and retrieves some nudes, and then publishes them. Stupid as it is, people do take and keep such photos. Your nudes, if published, even against your will, will be owned by the company as agreed by contract. The company decides whether to pursue a course of action to have them removed or whether it would be more beneficial to leave them in place. As an individual you might be able to go to the police about the hacking, but you have no right to those images. So basically you are signing away the right to prospectively keep your toby or vagina off the internet, and any other humiliating material. Your toby or vagina is now a commercial asset.
Illegally obtained paparazzi footage? Another celebrity might be able to take them to court and have the images removed, if they were trespassing or using other such methods. But you won’t because the company now owns them all.
Contestants who get to the semifinals give up their right to express themselves in public, in any way, shape or form, unless authorised by the company by written consent.
In other words, before even replying to a comment on Facebook or Twitter, which hundreds of millions of people freely do on a daily basis on a coffee break, you must ask permission from the company. As the author of the video broods, it’s no wonder people who are on a contract with these fuckers are so silent.
That is infuriating and I can only imagine it feels like being in prison or in a witness protection program, while trying to live a normal life. It must be very isolating to have less options to express an opinion than a ten-year-old.
How does this fare with the Human Rights Convention? Is it legal to force a person to live like this if they change their mind?
The company can keep renewing the licence to your content in perpetuity.
That is to say, if you lose your market value to them, you might get the rights to your content back and be freed from the devil’s grasp.
But should they decide they can keep milking you, they are free to do so for as long as they like, even long after you have concluded that the deal was shitty to begin with.
This is not collaboration or employment, it’s ownership of another person’s labour and basically falls short of ownership of that person as well.
Contestants who suffer as a result of the company’s actions cannot sue the company.
This is a major one, because half of those becoming involved in talent shows are lured there in order to be turned into laughing stocks, nationally and internationally, for monetary profit, which can have a major negative impact on their lives. By the time they realise this it’s too late.
Some of them are very young and naive, not very literate or even psychologically frail and prone to exploitation. Many do not fully read or understand what they are signing. The producers are not only aware of it but banking on it.
And as has been exposed before, some who are observably vulnerable are pursued by such shows in order to be ridiculed as much as possible. There was a Welsh lady, a few years ago, pestered by representatives of the X Factor to re-audition (three or four times); she was even offered free lodging and transport. Exploiting her in order to turn her into the subject of mockery was vomit-inducing.
People watching these shows are probably not aware that no one wanders in there off the street. Everyone enjoying the “privilege” of national and international ridicule, for years to come, goes through a series of auditions first and is deliberately misled into thinking they have a chance.
This is an obvious breach of trust, morally fraudulent at least; it can and does result in people ending up with depression and suicidal thoughts. They are systematically, cruelly lured into having their lives turned upside-down for the profit of these sharks.
It really should be illegal.
By signing that contract they obviously don’t understand (since they don’t even understand the practical perils of these shows), they are giving up the right to complain about being deceived and exploited.
Sliming which is one inch away from defamation is made legal by this contract.
Whereas defamation involves spreading lies in order to destroy someone’s reputation, the techniques employed by these shows don’t fall far behind, in terms of portraying people inaccurately by splicing and piecing together bits and bobs to make them look ridiculous.
They don’t have to make anything up; all they have to do is manipulate the content you provide them with in order to create a certain image.
One particularly cruel method the X Factor uses in the so-called “judges’ houses” (rented properties where said celebrities briefly show up) is depriving contestants of food and water for long periods of time, in scorching heat, to then film people who are physically sick and dehydrated, creating the impression they are agitated or even freaking out.
They can be portrayed as emotionally unstable or hysterical by inducing physical malaise, as arrogant for reacting negatively when prodded, or as less talented by deliberately giving them tasks which can’t be optimally accomplished (putting together groups which don’t sound well, mandating they sing songs which don’t suit their voices etc). All this is done for entertainment and in order to obtain as many flops as possible.
Sometimes they make them dress ridiculously on purpose.
Adding to that, they can, as stipulated by the contract, demand that contestants behave in certain ways in front of the camera and then release the footage as genuine, leading viewers to believe that is your actual behaviour and personality. Whilst it takes a dash of stupidity to actually do it, some people don’t realise the consequences the so-called silliness can have.
One contestant who couldn’t cry on cue for the camera to produce the staple sob story was let go of shortly after.
In conclusion, they are treated like monkeys in a circus, to be exploited in any way and for as long as possible, and nothing more. No one deserves that, especially when going there in all honesty.