We Have Obtained a Copy of MTV's Standard Real World Cast-Member Contract


Last Wednesday's Village Voice cover story profiled the DeBartoli sisters, two Staten Island sisters who starred in the never-aired Jersey Shore precursor Bridge & Tunnel and signed enormously binding contracts, legal documents that seemed to be written in another language but that they accepted anyway. This is standard practice for all its reality-show subjects, and though the following is a different document than the one the B&T girls inked, we've managed to get our hands on an unsigned Real World contract. The 30-page spectacular is worth careful scrutiny, but please enjoy the amusingly specific highlights we've summarized below. Happy birthday, MTV!

Under the stipulations of the following standard contract, participants in Real World--the grandaddy of "reality" shows, after Cops--agree to the following terms:

• You may die, lose limbs, and suffer nervous breakdowns. (Stipulation 1)

• If you undergo any medical procedures while involved in the show, they carry the risk of infection, disfigurement, death. (4)

• You may be humiliated and explicitly portrayed "in a false light." (12)

• Producers are under no obligation to conduct background checks on your fellow cast members. (7)

• If you contract AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases while filming ["gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), Chlamydia, scabies (crabs),'hepatitis, genital warts, and other communicable and sexually transmitted diseases or Pregnancy; etc"], MTV is not responsible. (7)

• Interacting with other cast members carries the risk of "non-consensual physical contact" and should you contract AIDS, etc. during such an interaction, MTV is not responsible. (7)

• You don't have STDs, but accept that other people on the show might. (18)

• You're not pregnant and you won't become pregnant before the show's done filming. If you do become pregnant, you'll tell the Producer immediately--and pregnancy is grounds for dismissal. (38)

• If you get kicked off the show, it will be filmed. (14)

• You can't change your physical appearance during filming, without the Producer's express permission. (26)

• You grant the Producer blanket rights to your life story. (49)

• The Producer can do pretty much anything they want with your life story, including misrepresent it. (49)

• Your email may be monitored during participation. (20b)

• You promise not to hide from MTV cameras in establishments where they can't film. (20a)

• You authorize the Producer to have total access to your school records, government forms, your credit history. (19)

• The production crew can show up at your personal house at any time to film and/or to take anything they want, as long as they return the objects once production has ended. (20a)

• Under ordinary circumstances, all of this would be considered a "serious" invasion of privacy. (11)

• For one year after the show's final episode airs, cast members are required to participate in all producer-determined press and forbidden from engaging in any media (radio, television, chat rooms, blogs) without the Producer's written permission. (9)

• The Producer holds the authorship and copyright to every photograph, email, website, sound or video recording, documented performance created in relation to the program, on every medium imaginable. (8)

• You're obligated to participate in a Reunion Special for up to five years after the show ends, you'll be paid $2500 for your involvement, and the Producer only has to give you 14 days notice. (50c)

• You're required to participate in book or home video projects for two years after the show ends, and you'll be paid $750.00 for each one. (50f)

Also, worth noting:

• While you're on the show, you're responsible for all long-distance phone charges. (16a)

• The explicit list of physical tasks you might be subjected to, enumerated in the contract, include traveling by "air (whether via helicopter, commercial airliner, glider, private aircraft or otherwise), train and/or automobile, as well as strenuous and/or dangerous and/or mental activity, including but not limited to, horseback riding, jogging, bicycling, motorcycling, exercise and/or weight equipment, skydiving, swimming, bungee jumping, parasailing snorkeling, jet skiing, amusement park activities, rock climbing, engaging in contact sports, hiking, kayaking and boating." (1)

There's a lot more where that came from. Our favorite lines highlighted in orange.

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.. and they call it the REAL WORLD. pfft.. 

in the real world there are no rules and anything CAN and WILL happen. this is fake controlled life.. what the hell happened to this show?


This show is living proof  in this day & age that people (especially young adults) will do anything for fame! Exploit me as long fame comes with it!! As for the contract the gay kid  who wouldn't admit he was gay on the Seattle season (I forgot his name) slapped the girl dead in her face because she called him gay on national tv. The whole camera crew watched him do this and didn't lay a finger to stop it. What did he get a little slap himself on the wrist don't do this again and go to anger management classes. He didn't get arrested or even kicked off the show. Everything was back to normal three episodes in. It's all a fantasy not reality  nothing is real on tv.


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Michael K. Burton
Michael K. Burton

You guys know that this contract is strictly for liability issues for what may happen to cover themselves. More likely then not they may have sued and settled for these issues. Any of these things within this contract could happen to you whether your on camera or not. In the event a ex crime is committed the contracts is stipulating that you can't sue them not that you can't prosecute any members of the cast or crew from committing the act and if you catch a STD it's your own damn fault for having sex with random dudes or chicks. Observing the demographic of this show they are looking for sexy looking people who like to party and cause drama... their are plenty of college students willing to take part in this. Also I am confident they are well compensated for the use of their likeness and other job opportunities also open up with the MTV network. I haven't really watched MTV in years... I stopped when they stop playing music :D but seriously your getting paid for doing nothing... You get free room and board.... a salary and expenses paid if you like to go clubbing or whatever... free food... in exchange for your soul >:D. Don't be scared because of this contract... simply cross that bridge when you get there... but honestly  can not remember the name of one previous real world member -_-

Morgan Ward
Morgan Ward

*Sigh*I guess if people are stupid and choose to sign without reading, then yea, they had that coming, .  But now. . Its so easy for anyone to record you and put you online. .  I feel like if you choose to act like a rational person, its not that different. . . 


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I bet a lot of people don't read the contract or just really wanna be on TV that bad to consent to all this. The part where they can misrepresent you and pretty much make you look like an ass if it makes for good TV really caught me off guard. I'm glad I finally got to see the contract though I was really curious.

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Felipe Contreraz

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Okay? People agree to do this. They presumably read the contract and are willing to comply with it for their 15 minutes of fame. No one is forcing them into it. Obviously there are parts of it that seem inhumane or unfair, but this is 100% voluntary. There are so many bigger injustices in the world in which people do not have a choice. We all know MTV (among pretty much every other major corporation out there) is a soulless, money-hungry unstoppable machine... is anyone even surprised ?


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I didn't go to San Diego

So...I was chosen to be on the show. And I was going to do it...until I read this contract, no lie. I spoke with the producer about the specifics of many of those same highlighted lines. He downplayed them, claiming that the conditions were exhaustive in order to protect the network. Understandable, kind of. I wasn't willing to subject myself to that magnitude of lost privacy. I felt like signing that contract would mean signing away rights that a person should never compromise. 


Oh lordie I renember that contract....it was a long seminar with executive producers.


This is great. MTV set a standard for reality tv...lol @ granting blanket rights 2 your life story & ur responsible 4 all long distant call charges. Sounds like voluntary servitude.


This is another good activity for the jetlagged.


We (GCG) are currently a Small Business suing MTV/Viacom for Copyright Infringement for using our copyrights in the background of their Real World and True Life shows. While they make billions and don't hire the workers who would normally oversee a production they just film whatever they want and just screw the little guy. http://www.shadowdancers.tv/MT... here is the link to the lawsuit, please pass this around and help support our efforts against them.


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legally signing away your dignity I knew good job MTV. 


How desperate for fame would someone have to be to actually sign this? MTV pretty much owns the signees and for what? A few months of being shoved down the public's throat until everyone you come in contact with hates you? Ridiculous. 

Danny D Staggs
Danny D Staggs

This is the progression of the entertainment industry a reality series. While the Investor which in case would be Mtv makes millions this is why you must always have a good entertainment attorney with at least twenty yrs practicing expereince give you direction. Most of these reality stars can't afford legal counsel and just accepts what they are offered. Well Good Luck!


The level of victim-blaming ("These people deserve what they get if they sign this without reading it!") in these comments is nauseating. These contracts are not created by accident, and burying a, "Oh by the way, you might be raped and you both acknowledge that and absolve us of any liability by signing this" in a 30 page contract is disingenuous at best and predatory at worst.

It also overwhelmingly puts more women in danger than men, which is handy because "she brought it on herself" is one of the most common 'arguments' put forth when rape accusations are made.When fame is considered one of the greatest signs of success in this country and young people are offered it before they're thirty, it's simplicity itself for megacorporations like MTV and its affiliates to prey on that desire and then throw up their hands with, "Well, they knew what they were getting into!" when something goes wrong. It's even easier because they know people will back them up.Disgusting.


The compensation is too low and some of the clauses are questionable (i.e. one that basically says you could be raped and you just have to deal with it?  Isn't that illegal?)

That said for at least Mike Mizanin it has skyrocketed careers.  He's in at least the mid 6 figures by now.  If they were talking about a compensation of at least $500,000 I'd do it.  


I'll pass on this contract.


I would NEVER sign this kind of contract, The ones who agree to sign this must be real idiots, and I belive they deserve what they are going to get.


There is no way in the world I would sign that contract regardless of what was being offered to me in return, and I honestly can't imagine that I could have any respect for anyone who would.

Sadie Maloney
Sadie Maloney

Effectively, signing this contract releases the production company and parents/affiliates from any liability for lack of due diligence if the signator is harmed in any way, shape, for or fashion from anything relating to the show. I'd imagine, though, that even though the company cannot be sued for libel/slander with their "fictionalization," it also means that anything that is portrayed on the show cannot be used as legitimate evidence in a civil/criminal case against cast members, aside from raw footage. Once edited, for example, someone could have come off as saying that their uncle was a horrid individual with lots of crack whores in his basement, but should the uncle sue the cast member for slander, the edited words cannot be considered legitimate evidence and I'm spending far too much time on this, aren't I?Basically, you are informed of what you're getting into. But these people are 18-25 year olds who generally have little working knowledge of contracts and the consequences of signing such a contract. It's a risk I'd never be willing to take and those people that legitimately understand the contract and still sign seem to lack the foresight to understand how this could really go horribly wrong in the future.

Kevin Garren
Kevin Garren

so basically signing this is stupid and MTV is triple stupid? awesome

Angie Alcalde
Angie Alcalde

people actually sign these things... hence we on on the 10  millionth season of the show... idiots


or just get a job and avoid all this humiliation, misrepresentation and invasion of privacy 

Nadine White
Nadine White

Add it all up aaand:   You could be raped by a cast member, get AIDS, get syphillis or get killed and the people who picked that cast member to live with you -without a background check- hoping for dramatic effect isn't to be held responsible???  Are you f-ing kidding me with this thing???!!!!   That section sounds more like a pipe-dream than anything that would hold up in court.  "Non-consensual physical contact" - the euphamism doesn't make them sound any less despicable.

Andy Dunn
Andy Dunn

Wow.  You deserve whatever you get for signing that thing without reading it.


@Neal I remember that. Steven and Irene were their names I think.

Matt Mack
Matt Mack

Exactly, this is aimed at fame whores who are just hell bent on national recognition.  A lot of this is just typical CYA and not wanting individuals to get rich off of MTV's brand name, and afterwards a cast member like Eric Nies might go on to make a decent living off of his fame, but ultimately it's just all about "IM AWN DA TEE VEE!"


Being on TV is a job.

Plum Jo
Plum Jo

Agreed. I understand MTV trying to cover their behinds but just because you make people sign something saying you aren't responsible doesn't mean you're not responsible. "We were able to buy your incredible Real World house because it's built on the site of a nuclear meltdown. We are not responsible if you get cancer." Yes, you are.


That's true.  They use it as a deterrent because most people will think they signed it and won't pursue legal action.  It's like those release of liability contracts, it does not mean the service provider can act in a negligent fashion or that you still don't have grounds for suit if they don't perform.


Well... I don't like this contract anymore than any of you do, but I kind of get why MTV says they are not responsible for "non-consensual physical contact". The truth is, they hire these people and they place them together in this ridiculous situation. If one of them tries to force another to do something they don't want to do, it wasn't MTV forcing the rapist, so why should they be held responsible? It is the rapist who should pay for his/her crime. If any of you have studied law, you would know that no one other than the rapist pays for the crime itself. However, I would have to read the whole contract to know if they are also saving their asses for failure to do anything to stop the raping, since they are watching it happen. Those are two very different things. One is being responsible for the act, which they are not because they did not commit it, and another is being responsible for watching it happen and not doing anything to stop it.

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