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Douglas Divorce Claim Turns on Meaning of Spinoff

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Wall Street by Tomàs Fano on Flickr

Wall Street by Tomàs Fano on Flickr

When actor Michael Douglas and his ex-wife Diandra split up over 10 years ago, the Hollywood star probably thought any battles were over once the divorce agreement was signed. But that was until Douglas starred in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” to be released in September.

Now Diandra has filed a new court claim alleging she is entitled to a cut of Douglas’ pay from the film because the divorce agreement gives her money from any “spinoffs” of work that had been created during the time the couple was married. Diandra claims that the new movie is a spinoff to the original 1987 Oliver Stone film “Wall Street,” in which Douglas starred while the couple was married; therefore, the argument goes, Diandra deserves part of Douglas’ salary for the film.

Douglas counters that the film is a sequel (not a spinoff), but the divorce agreement didn’t specify the difference between a sequel and a spinoff. As adeptly observed by Eriq Gardner at The Hollywood Reporter, Esq., “In terms of copyright law, both are derivative works. That doesn’t mean that a judge will see them as the same (although we can be sure there’s a lesson here for both divorce and entertainment lawyers).”

I’ll also add there’s a lesson to be learned for those going through divorces as well. Although you may not have to worry about deciphering between sequels and spinoffs in your divorce agreement, you should always be on the lookout for any terms that may be ambiguous; it’s better to clear them up now rather than later when they become an issue.

Yes, your legal representation should catch such things, but there’s nothing wrong with being an informed client. To learn more about details you need to consider during a marital breakup, check out LegalZoom’s divorce overview.

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July 8th, 2010 at 3:20 pm