5
Nov/09

Oral Contract Not Worth The Email They're Printed Out On


Plaintiff, movie distributor (The Weinstein Company), attempts to obtain exclusive license to distribute movie. It emails producer “We confirm that we accept your offer.” Producer immediately emails back “we’re going over the terms, we’ll get back to you.” (my paraphrase). Then producer does the deal with a different distributor. Distributor attempts to argue either (1) exclusive license created by oral communications, or (2) emails constitute written contract.
Held: The oral communications can’t create a binding transfer of an exclusive copyright license as there has to be a signed writing, as per the statute of frauds in the Copyright Act. The emails don’t create a transfer as defendant clearly and immediately indicated that it was not yet willing to enter into the contract.
Bonus footnote 4: Defendant argued that plaintiff couldn’t make the ‘oral transfer’ argument as it had taken a contrary legal position in another lawsuit. Held: ‘Judicial Estoppel’ exists not when a party argues a certain position in another proceeding but when a tribunal adopts that position.
Decision Twc Oral Copyright