THE CONTRACT generator, FRAPA’s latest members-only online service, goes live later this month. And according to format consultant and FRAPA board member Michel Rodrigue, it is set to rewrite — literally — the complex and costly process of drafting licence and option contracts for international format deals.
“The beauty of the contract generator is that it allows you to produce a legally effective contract in the same time that it takes you to read one,” says Rodrigue, co-founder of format consultancy and brokerage The Format People. Rodrigue, along with Erik de Winter of Amsterdam format shop Absolutely Independent and a committee of FRAPA board members, has spent the last six months working on the online tool — a laborious task that has involved collating vast quantities of standard and historical contracts, sifting through endless clauses, liaising with lawyers and FRAPA partner WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), which has crafted an arbitration clause for the service, and compiling complicated checklists to ensure that “every angle, genre, media and jurisdiction” is covered.
The contract generator launched in beta form just before MIPTV in April and was well received by the FRAPA members who were asked to test-drive it. “But it soon became clear that we needed to refine the concept, not only to make it more interactive but also to future-proof it,” Rodrigue says. He cites the rapid pace of new-media development, pointing out that, in an industry that is evolving at warp speed, the ability to adjust clauses to reflect technological progress is essential.
The ability to edit is, in fact, another refinement that has been added since MIPTV. Rodrigue explains that the first incarnation of the contract generator only allowed for the download of PDF files, which could be cut and copied into a document but not amended or modified. “Once we started using the tool, we realised it wasn’t user-friendly to have the information presented in PDF form,” Rodrigue says. “When you’re putting together a contract, you always have to make changes to reflect the specific circumstances of the deal. So the new service now features Word files, which means you can drag the standard clauses you require into your draft contract and adjust them at will.”
Rodrigue is confident that the contract generator will offer real value to FRAPA members — and is now toying with the idea of using the model as the basis for a ‘bible generator’. “We are regularly asked for help with putting together production bibles,” he says. “So I’m thinking we might be able to build a template of standard production aspects for various genres… But for the time being, we’re very pleased with the new products we have launched this year — the price calculator, the contract generator, the WIPO arbitration service — and the fact that our membership is growing by the month. As my father used to say, you have to put your trousers on one leg at a time.”