If You Want To Have Sex With Charlie Sheen, You Have To Give Him The Copyrights On Any Photos You Take Of Him

from the wait,-what? dept

As you may have heard, last week actor Charlie Sheen announced that he is HIV positive, which got lots of news coverage. Related to that, In Touch magazine produced the non disclosure agreement (NDA) that it claims “Charlie Sheen had his sexual partners sign when they came to his house.” I guess if you’re a celebrity known for sleeping around, this is the kind of thing you have your lawyers cook up for you. But what struck me as interesting was that, beyond the basic NDA language, there was some copyright language concerning any images, videos or sound recordings. You can understand why Sheen (and his lawyers) don’t want anyone taking pictures of him or even talking about the relationship to book or magazine writers, so they include some bizarre copyright transfer language for the partner to agree to:

It’s a little difficult to read, so here are the relevant sections:

1.3 No Participation in Books or Articles. Without Your advance express written consent, I will not give or participate in any interviews, write or be a source for, any articles, books, programs, or stories about You or the Related Parties, whether truthful, fictionalized, on the record, or “off the record.” If I breach these promises, My copyright in any such unauthorized material shall be automatically and immediately transferred by Me to You as of its creation and in perpetuity, and this Agreement shall constitute a valid transfer of copyright.

1.4 Images and Recordings. Without Your advance express written consent, I will not create any photographs, movies, videos, sound or image recordings or otherwise capture any depictions or likenesses of You, Your family, friends, associates or employees (“Images and Recordings”). If I breach these promises any images and Recordings I create shall be considered Confidential Information, and My copyright in them shall be deemed automatically and immediately transferred by Me to You as of its creation and in perpetuity, and this Agreement shall constitute a valid transfer of copyright. If you expressly direct Me to create any Images and Recordings, they will be Confidential Information in which I have no legal rights or interest whatsoever, including any copyright, trademark, “moral rights,” patent, or other similar rights, and I convey, transfer and assign to You all of My right, title and interest (if any) of whatever kind or nature in all Images and Recordings as of their creation and in perpetuity, and this Agreement shall constitute a valid transfer of copyrights.

Of course, the “in perpetuity” is not really accurate, as you can’t give up your termination rights, even with a contractual agreement, to take back your copyrights after 35 years, but, really, that’s besides the point. I do wonder how valid Section 1.3 is at all. If the partner is interviewed for a book or a magazine article, there likely isn’t any copyright for Sheen’s partner to transfer in the first place, as nothing is “fixed” by that partner. Furthermore, in most cases, the book or magazine author/publisher would likely have a strong fair use claim if Sheen tried to have those quotes deleted via copyright. If anything, this just seems like a way to make it sound scary to go out and talk to a magazine or book author.

The transfer of copyright in the photos and videos at least seems a bit more legit, if still sketchy. Of course, once again, though, this shows where copyright is being used directly for censorship purposes, entirely divorced from its supposed purpose of providing incentives to create.

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Comments on “If You Want To Have Sex With Charlie Sheen, You Have To Give Him The Copyrights On Any Photos You Take Of Him”

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For someone who is actively being treated for HIV and consequently has a extremely low viral load (which most people being treated achieve) there is a extremely low chance of transmission*. Obviously with any new partner it is vital to discuss the risk and what viral load means, since low risk is still something they need to consent to. However for monogamous sexual partners (which, granted, Sheen is unlikely to fall into) unprotected sex with a undetectable viral load is relatively safe, though there is always the chance (~2%/year after the first two years) of the treatment failing to maintain undetectable viral loads. Particularly by combining treatment and condom usage it is possible for individuals to have responsible and safe sex between HIV+ and HIV- people.

*One study (covering ~20,000 HIV+ people) had a single case of transmission but that couple was having unprotected sex before treatment began but they can’t rule out that the transmission occurred after treatment began.


So how many Shades of Sheen is this?

Wow…way to kill the mood, Charlie. I thought just navigating the so-called “consent minefield” was bad enough (to be fair, I suppose it is a minefield for people who are bad at picking up on non-verbal signals). So how might this play with the contractual obligations of some of his acting gigs? Could a “Charlie Sheen+??? Sex Tape” become copyrighted property of, say, CBS or whatever, if the intercourse happens to take place in Sheen’s on-set trailer or dressing room?

P.S. I am reminded of this hilarious short as well (nothing to do with copyright; warning potentially NSFW language):


And of course, one of Tim’s old posts (also potentially NSFW language):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ktjmc59PWWM (since the original Youtube embed doesn’t display)


The whole copyright aspect looks exremely dubious, legally speaking. I’m not a lawyer, but thanks to the late, very lamented, groklaw, I do know that transfer of copyright requires a “writing”, which I believe requires a very specific listing of exactly what copyrights have been transferred. This would make an “automatic transfer” of copyright such as is demanded here legally impossible. The most you can achieve is a legal commitment to transfer future copyrights, but that doesn’t seem to be required by this language. I think if anyone broke this agreement, the most they could be successfully sued for under this agreement if a failure to honor the no photos without permission.


He obviously just wanted to come “clean” in case somebody ratted him out. And I honestly feel sorry for Bree Olsen, who could have had her life ruined if he had exposed her to HIV. As a former porn star, she knew the legal importance of being tested. Charlie had no right to conceal this vital information from her, nor anybody. He is lying if he says otherwise.

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