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Borat's Release -- Anything But Sexy Time

11/14/2006 7:33 PM PST BY TMZ STAFF

TMZ has obtained a copy of the release agreement signed by the ordinary people who appeared in the "Borat" movie, but even more significant than the release is the standard cover letter.

Two frat boys who appeared in the movie have sued the film's producers, claiming they were defrauded. They allege producers promised them that they were appearing in a Kazakhstani TV documentary that would never be shown in the U.S.

The release agreement that TMZ obtained is difficult to read, and the participant who supplied TMZ with the copy says his original is equally hard to read. Nevertheless, it is a comprehensive, standard release which basically signs away your first born.

The cover letter is interesting. It almost seems like it's written by Borat himself. It begins, "Dear Film Participant." The letter continues, "Thanks very much for your interest in appearing in our Film. We're glad that you want to appear in the film to share your views or insights with the public."

And it goes on: "Attached is our standard legal consent agreement. You'll see it explains that in addition to the chance to appear in the Film, you will get an appearance fee of $___., in return for your letting us have unrestricted rights to use your image and voice in our Film. As the agreement makes clear, you will be waiving all claims in relation to the Film."

46 COMMENTS

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31.

Lou    

Johnny #19 now pay attention in school today. LOL You criticized previous posters for misspellings, yet in your two-sentence post you have two words misspelled. Bigmouthed punk.

2868 days ago
32.

arctickat    

Mike P, he wasnt portraying someone retarded. He was portraying someone foreign not accustomed to American traditions yet.

He wasnt targeting Christians, he was targeting Ignorant Americans that fell for his act. When he was in the church he didnt go after any of the Christians specifically, he just announced that he had no friends and was asking for them.
He didnt just bring out anti-semitism, he brought out criticism by homophobes, feminists, and the hundreds of people who cheered at the idea of Bush drinking the blood of men, women and children of Iraq at the Virginia rodeo.
He Captured a lot of clueless people looking like ignorant morons, and used it for entertainment value. Thats not exactly an original concept for the USA.

Did you even see the movie?

2868 days ago
33.

legal_lady    

Arctic Kat - I totally agree with your comments - there's a lot of questions that need to be answered. It will be interesting to see how things play out on this one.

Oh, and SER, I trust you are no longer questioning that I'm a Paralegal :-) Have a nice day.

2868 days ago
34.

lady mcbeth    

I am already too sick of Borat - show him the door.

2868 days ago
35.

Chrissy    

While I'm not sure about the legal battle they face, am I the only one who if they got approached by "Borat" and a camera crew and offered a couple hundred bucks to be in a movie with bizzare "scenes", would turn and run the other way?

I can't even understand how anyone would think that "Borat" is for real after like 5 minutes.

2868 days ago
36.

Missy    

"With three lawsuits already in motion and two more pending, I'd say the participants were "duped" by the studio. One lawsuit I can see as a cash grab, but when there are this many, you know something is up."

Actually, what I think Chris we are seeing is the bandwagon effect. One lawsuit comes out and suddenly all the other people in the movie are emboldened to think that they might have a chance to make a few dollars off if themselves. That type of behavior is TYPICAL in this country. Especially with the type of person that hides their true feelings behind a false front to everyone. And really, what are they complaining about??? They're pissed because they opened up to what they consider to be a bunch of peons in a little know-nothing country and now everyone will actually see them for what they REALLY are? Please. They signed a release. One of the first lessons my Dad taught me was don't EVER sign anything without reading it first. They should have had the brains to read it.

2868 days ago
37.

Missy    

Chrissy - that's the beauty of a total hypocrit. They usually aren't very smart and that makes them easy to expose.

2868 days ago
38.

Jim March    

Has anybody considered that the drunk frat boys may have said things on camera that were cut, that might have at least limited the damage? You know, like, "just kidding"...?

----

The closest anybody has come to a situation like this was my run-in with "Crossballs", an American show riffing off of Cohen's "Ali G" concept.

In that mess I wasn't told the name of the show, and I was mislead about the nature of what was going on. In my case I figured out what the real game was long before it aired, didn't cash their check ($200 if anybody cares) and told Viacom via a lawyer friend that I'd sue if they aired it. Viacom backed down, guys. See the link I've attached for a blow-by-blow including the letters from my attorney or see this page for a mostly-accurate short form of the tale:

While I agree that these "frat boys" ain't exactly innocent, I think they do have a case.

Basically, a release like this is a form of contract. If lies are told in connection with a contract, the contract is no good. There's an ancient term among lawyers and courts: "fraud vitiates everything it touches". It goes back to the English legal system, I've found references in American courts going back to 1795 and you see it in Indian (the Hindu India) courts too. "Vitiates" means "sexually corrupts"(!) but in this usage read it as "nullifies".

They sued once the nature of the the fraud was revealed to them. "They took the money" doesn't factor in.

The "Crossballs" show I was filmed in never aired. Viacom's lawyers thought I had a case. I think these frat boys are going to win, possibly win big, and kill this sort of comedy concept in the US once and for all.

And as funny as Cohen can be, I think that's a good thing. If it's OK for somebody to get hurt for entertainment, well hell, let's feed anybody we don't like to a pack of starving hyenas on pay-per-view. We don't DO that crap, and we shouldn't be doing this. People have rights. The right to enter into a contract KNOWING WTF IS GOING ON is a key civil right and you won't like the world we get if it goes away.

It won't be funny.

Jim March

2868 days ago
39.

AyeRoxor    

The chick that sang all the ad lib singing on PInk Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon got a one-time studio fee. That's what she sold herself for, and thats what she was paid. If she had somehow negotiated a percentage, she might be a millionaire today.

But she did not.

That's what she sold herself, her work, for, and thats what she was paid. Simple.

Adam: "I will pay you $5 dollars to empty my trash"
Bob: "Okay." Bob empties the trash.
Adam gives Bob $5.
Bob thinks it's unfair?

2868 days ago
40.

coxy    

i agree with 38.

Publically humiliating people who lack a proper education or upbringing should not be considered sophisticated entertainment. I may be liberal but have boycotted michael morre for the same reason.

And all those people who act like "borat" is a hero? How challenging is it to make a drunk frat boy look like a bigot? Why should we be impressed by this?

Sascha Baron Cohen is nothing but an elitist clown.



2868 days ago
41.

SER    

Okay coalharbourqt - TRUCE - I didn't mean to hurt your feelings
or doubt your unparalleled accomplishment of becoming a paralegal .
Maybe you are & maybe you're not - it's really not my concern.

However, one does need a basic "textbook" grasp of the underlying
contract law to decide this case. That's the primary framework, and
then the rest (the circumstance) is put into context. What is not
to be taken into consideration, though, is what was actually said -
it's beside the point.

Speaking of textbook law - there's another factor to consider: that they were lied to about where the film would be shown. That explains why they wouldn't immediately wake up the next day & start looking for a way out of the contract: they were okay with what they said in the video if it wasn't shown here. But that wasn't how it was used, contrary to what they were told, and therefore what they were agreeing to.

And yes, they accepted a consideration which would bind the contract (namely, $) but they were deceived as to the scope of the film's audience in order to get their
agreement.

And sure, it'll be handled by a judge who will look at all
of it - not just the simple textbook approach.However, it's too easy
to judge them by whatever ignorance they spewed forth on video, but
that's not the legal question, it's whether or not the contract was
legally binding. It's really easy for everyone to get caught up in
their opinions and argue against them based on their beliefs and
prejudices and bigotry, but again, that's not the issue at hand.

Luckily it will be a real judge enforcing the real laws, and not a paragon of
political correctness who just wants to punish them for having ignorant thoughts on which they have not acted.

2868 days ago
42.

moretocome    

What's so great about the scene is Borat didn't have to prompt them to say much. They just spewed and spewed all on their own. And by the way they didn't look or act drunk when it started. And I'm sure they had already signed the wavier. As the bit went on they got drunker and spewed more crap.

Also Crossballs was hilarious, they wouldn't have people state their agenda and the rest would just fall into place. But I agree only an idiot wouldn't have known what was really going on. I can see why if you didn't like crossballs you wouldn't go for Borat.

2867 days ago
43.

legal_lady    

Truce accepted SER (although you can skip the condescending tone - truthfully my feelings weren't hurt as this is hardly a personal forum - you just seem to be so threatened that you might not be the only on here who has read a legal textbook and has some actual real world experience in litigation in a law firm - your reaction is quite humorous really).

At least we can agree on one thing, which is that this case has nothing to do with what they said and everything to do with the circumstances surrounding the signing of the Release and the consideration received. Like I said in my previous post - I haven't seen the film and don't know or really care what they said in the film - it's irrelevant. It will be interesting to see how all this plays out once all the details are revealed.

However, like I said previously, I don't think it's realistic in this day and age of the internet and sites like youtube to reasonably believe that because someone tells you that a film won't be shown in America that it means no one in America will ever see it. Pretty gullible if you actually believe that. If it gets to a courtroom I'm sure that is one of aspects that will have to be explored.

Beyond the legal aspects I just believe from a standpoint of integrity that if you are going to sign a Release and accept money to go on film with your viewpoints, WHATEVER THEY ARE, and REGARDLESS OF WHO IS GOING TO SEE IT, you should have the guts to stand behind what you say. Heck, even minus the Release and money - have the guts to stand behind what you are saying or just don't say it. 'Nuf said.

2867 days ago
44.

Rachel    

Firstly, that 'agreement' isn't that hard to read. I read it. It is a standard agreement. Secondly, those 'boys' know who 'Borat/Ali G" . Every pre, during and post college student knows who he is. They knew this was a movie and they signed their life away to be in this film. They have no case. They just want money.

It is a film. It is a classic. It is funny. Deal with it.

2867 days ago
45.

SER    

Good points, coalharbourqt.I, too, have not seen the film, and I
have no intention of doing so. Any conjecture I made about what they said was just based on what I'm hearing from the general public and in reading in the news items about the fact that they're upset about the mess they got themselves into.

And yes, people should just be accountable enough to stand by what they say and not try to weasel out of it. Ironically in a country of free speech, we also pass a lot of judgement on people who actually exercise that right (because so many of us do filter what comes out of our mouths) and they obviously knew that their comments were worthy of criticism.

It is naive, as you mentioned, to think something won't be viewable in America, but I also think that one should be able to take another's word when it comes to where the film itself will be shown (i.e. as a theater-run movie.) That's a reasonable thing when entering a contract and doesn't make them gullible, per se, as the only agreement was about where the other party to the contract would show the movie, not accounting for secondary pirating by others. We all know now, as you mentioned about YouTube, that there are indirect venues for viewing just about anything, but the contract was only about where the movie makers would be showing it themselves, and they did show it in locations beyond where they said they would.

I don't know where you're coming from about my supposedly being threatened.
Condescending, maybe ;-) but threatened? Hardly - I wish more people bothered to understand common law since so many people obviously don't. And to clarify so there's not a misunderstanding, no, I don't mean you when I say that.

I found your reaction to the challenge quite humorous as well. I'm glad we were mutually entertained.

2866 days ago
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