Why Are Photographers & Wedding Vendors Requiring a Non-Disparagement Contract?

A Non-Disparagement clause restricts individuals from taking any action that negatively impacts an organization, it’s reputation, products, services, management and employees.

Let’s use Charlie Sheen for example Sheen v. Warner this case is in the news primarily based on a Non-Disparagement Clause. Standard Clauses (During the Term and thereafter,) “agrees to take no action which is intended, or would reasonably be expected, to harm the Company it’s/theirs reputation or which would reasonably be expected to lead to unwanted or unfavorable publicity to the Company or Individual.”

Thanks to the internet, it’s now easier than ever for a disagreement to result in slander, libel or defamation causes of action.

One party disparages the others conduct and, often “smears” the business or personal reputation of the other.

I recently spoke with another photographer who had received a negative review after the client demanded additional “photo-shopping” to remove tattoos from wedding photos. The issue (and it’s significant) was that the photographer had never agreed to do something she was unfamiliar with as a part of the original agreement. Because of this, her reputation that was previously perfect, was now flawed.

The only way to react to anyone “throwing up on the internet” is effectively, to file a defamation suit and seek recovery of damages and, seek to remove posted comments pertaining to the individual or, business.

Last month while attending a continuing education class for Twogetherintexas, a discussion regarding premarital counseling that included a premarital agreement was a “hot topic” among my peers for a number of reasons but mainly because it’s recently become a common practice among prospective brides and grooms who add a Non-Disparagement Clause in the event of a future divorce.

Although I could see the “flip side” of the coin in that no one wants to be on the receiving end of derogatory posts, comments or rants, it should be noted that it happens and, it happens more often than you might think.

Pre marital counseling is not the place to judge either the bride or the groom and “pick a side.” Rather, the role is to find a common ground and educate the couple on future issues, while giving insight on how to avoid or even overcome problems “down the road.”

I recently wrote a blog regarding being subpoenaed to a divorce hearing simply because I officiated the wedding and shocked that Family Law can involve the unwitting clergy, minister, Rabbi or wedding officiant in Texas as an “unbiased witness.”

While it’s true that my role is and will always be not to be on either side- I cannot testify as to whether you were under duress and signed an agreement minutes prior to the ceremony regarding your union- after all, I’m not a psychologist and only a licensed Expert Witness could testify as to your emotional state.

Every bride or groom is nervous at a wedding and, I’ve never encountered a situation where contract negotiations factored in minutes prior to making a legal and binding commitment.

My suggestion is to always seek council PRIOR to signing anything, after all, attorneys recognize, understand and comprehend the ramifications of legalese that you may or may not understand when signing with a “poisonous pen” that will bite you in the ass down the road.

A mutual Non-Disparagement
(a) Each Investor agrees that, during the Standstill Period, neither it not any of it’s Affiliates or Associates will, and it will cause each of it’s Affiliates and Associates not to, directly or indirectly, in any capacity or manner, make, express, transmit speak, write, verbalize or otherwise communicate in any way (or cause, further, assist, solicit, encourage, support or participate in any of the foregoing), any remark, comment, message, information, declaration, communication or any statement of any kind, whether verbal, in writing, electronically transferred or otherwise, that might reasonably be construed to be derogatory or critical of, or negative toward, the Individual/Company or any of it’s directors, officers, Affiliates, subsidiaries, employees, agents or representatives (collectively, the “Company Representatives”), or that reveals, discloses, incorporates, is based upon, discusses, includes or otherwise involves any confidential or proprietary information of the Individual/Company or it’s subsidiaries or Affiliates, or to malign, harm, disparage, defame or damage the reputation or good name of the Individual/Company, it’s business or any of the Individual/Company representatives.

Now, last year, I filed suit for Theft of Services/Defamation of Character regarding a “Tardy Party Bride” who was over an hour late to her own wedding and LIED to attain a police discount. Effectively, after being “caught” in the lie, she took to the internet to post my copyright and trademark protected intellectual property to defame me with. I read with interest a letter sent from a television court TV program inviting me to “arbitrate” this case on TV. Since my process server had been attempting to serve a citation for 3 weeks and, “if I won, the show would guarantee payment for my participation,” I agreed based on the evidence that would most certainly have resulted in a default judgment from the “Party Bride.” Had I known that at the time, the “case” would be based on opinion, rather than law, I would never have agreed.

I do not discuss my personal opinions of this experience for important legal reasons: ie- I had minutes to review a Non-Disparagement Agreement that required my signature PRIOR to being escorted to the set. Now, I understand most legalese and had I known key elements that were involved in the show, I would never have subjected myself to be a participant. However, I realized that my opinion and my experience would be forever “silenced” due to the Agreement.

As a prospective Bride or Groom, my own opinion regarding a required Non-Disparagement Agreement regarding the possibility of a dissolution of the marriage is that it’s a very good idea! That’s right, it’s the best idea that anyone should agree too because:
1. Divorces are ugly most of the time
2. The internet makes it easy to hurt someone and, it’s forever
3. You have no idea the pain of “scorned love” is willing to go
4. What started out as a “beautiful story” now has a “tragic end”
5. Divorce is like death- you will experience a range of emotions that include “rage”

I suggest that everyone consider adding an agreement that hopefully, you will never need.

Wendy M Wortham