US comedian Pete Davidson of the Saturday Night Live (SNL) fame recently had a nasty surprise in store for his fans: those buying tickets for one of his stand-up shows in San Francisco were asked to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs).
And Davidson apparently wasn't joking. The document, described in reports as both “lengthy” and “Orwellian” is meant to prevent those in attendance of a show from discussing it, including by offering any opinions about it online. In other words, fans are prohibited from tweeting, for example, that they liked or disliked the show, and the same goes for other platforms, like Instagram and YouTube, but also for blogs. The fine for breaking this NDA? One million dollars.
However, Variety is reporting that Davidson may not be able to enforce the terms of the NDA and actually collect this money from audience members found in breach. Lawyers also commented that the fine is exorbitantly high for an NDA.
From the NDA:
“the individual shall not give any interviews, offer any opinions or critiques, or otherwise participate by any means or in any form whatsoever (including but not limited to blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or any other social networking or other websites whether now existing or hereafter created).”
In the meantime, Davidson reportedly applied the same method of protecting himself from his audience in Chicago – so it looks like he might make it a permanent policy.
Techdirt writes about this bizarre case and recalls that perhaps surprisingly and disappointingly, comedians have of late been coming up with a number of similar moves, such as copyrighting jokes and banning phones from their shows.
However, these still make some sense as overzealous attempts to prevent unauthorized recording and distribution of content – but to take away people's right to express their opinion publicly is “purely crazy,” as the article put it.
It's particularly disappointing considering that comedy and comedians are traditionally considered to be proponents and promoters of free speech – to now see them come up with legal ways of preventing their fans from enjoying the same privilege.
There is still hope, though, that Davidson might not be serious about his million-dollar NDAs. But if the shows where the document first turned up are anything to go by, that hope is fading: those who bought the ticket but wouldn't sign away on their right to have an opinion received refunds are were prevented from attending.