When is a joint venture not a joint venture? According to lawyers in a suit about profits from the TV show Smallville, the answer is, “When the word ‘joint’ isn’t actually included.”
The Hollywood Reporter follows up on the latest in a lawsuit between Warner Bros. and Smallville co-creators Miles Miller and Alfred Gough and co-producer Tollin/Robbins Productions over profit sharing from the series. Miller/Gough/Tollin/Robbins are claiming that they are owed tens of millions of dollars from the studio, due to a joint venture agreement in their contract, but Warners have come up with an interesting way to disagree:
To this argument, Warners has an interesting response. “In fact, the producers agreement is denominated a ‘venture agreement,’ not a ‘joint venture agreement,’ and a ‘venture’ is not the same thing as a ‘joint venture,” the demurrer reads. The studio then helpfully provides definitions of the two terms from Black’s Law Dictionary.
Is a “venture” the same as a “joint venture”? Warners says no, especially since a partnership was specifically disavowed elsewhere in the deal.
The next hearing, on July 16th, should be entertaining in its discussion of this point.