The war in Ukraine has some interesting consequences for those lives or making a living in social media, both in terms of content and commerce.
Speedo have recently terminated its contract with the Russian swimmer Evgeny Rylov due to his participation in the 18th March support Rally in the Luzhniki Stadium promoting Putin’s war ( https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2022/mar/23/russian-athletes-face-backlash-after-wearing-z-symbol-at-putin-rally ).
Generally speaking, if this situation had occurred under an English contact, the termination would have most likely have been actioned via a “Publicity Clause” which would usually entail the following:
For a Publicity Clause to be triggered, it must touch or affect the reputation of the Sponsor (like Speedo) and/or the Talent (Mr Rylov) in a significant and negative way. In this case, the association of Russian Ultra Nationalism and Putin in light of the War in Ukraine (where there is strong public support for the Ukrainian people and government) would be damaging for a brand to associate itself with such a regime or to have an individual endorsed by that brand to be associated with it.
Such a clause can range from a conditional exercise of power to a complete discretionary right to terminate relations due to bad publicity or associations with the Talent.
If a publicity clause is not written in a Sponsor and Talent agreement, or if there is no written agreement, it can be implied by the courts because such a term is so important to such an industry. However, that is an expensive way to enforce an unwritten contractual right which is expected to be expressed in writing!
A point to note some athletes/public figures may have been coerced to make such a public association with authoritative regimes involving Mr Rylov. This does not excuse the actions of Mr Rylov, or those like him, or us assuming a set of facts on him. Though it will be interesting to see how an act that can terminate a contract exercised by Duress would affect:
- the contractual relations between Sponsor and Talent;
- how the public would view this too; and
- would we be remedies and rights available to the Party who has been put under Duress.
Lastly, such clauses are utilised by talent agencies which may manage influencers, celebrities, actors, athletes and any individual with a public-facing persona/exposure. Therefore, Rylov might have not only lost his contract with Speedo but also the talent agency handling/commercialising his public profile. Therefore breaching a publicity clause in one agreement, may cause other agreements with different parties/sponsors to terminate their relations with the Talent.