We get asked to sign NDAs from time to time and we spend way too much time analyzing whether it is something we can do. If it isn’t the potential legal minefield that stares back at us from the page, then it’s the notion of keeping track of all the ridiculously broad limitations each and every one of these little documents creates. There are obviously many more reasons we could list here, but in the interest of brevity, we’ve listed our top 5 reasons why we don’t want to sign your NDA.
1. Ideas Are Like Assholes, Opinions, and Scripts in Hollywood…
We hear ideas all day long and chances are, we’ve either heard or thought of something in the neighborhood of what you’re pitching. Unless you have a VERY unique and VERY detailed expression of a genuinely novel notion, there really is little to protect. We live smack dab at the intersection of entertainment, new media, and technology and there’s always a lot of traffic. Our 360-approach to content and distribution literally applies to nearly every conceivable business vertical.— and we want ALL of that business.
Every NDA we sign in one sector could prevent us from doing business in another. Splitting hairs over language and trying to narrow down the sacrosanct from the unprotectable notion, is a time and money suck. That said, if you really do have and want to work with us to exploit your formula for cold fusion and you have the empirical data to prove it, where do we sign?
2. Stealing an idea takes a lot of work.
There’s a saying in our biz: “What works on the page, don’t work on the stage.” You could have the greatest idea in the world, but unless you have assembled the best team to implement and execute this great idea, it will never reach fruition. A great idea doesn’t become interesting until it is put into action and tested to some decent extent. And even then, you best have a credible / stellar team to prove that full execution is around the corner. Look, even Microsoft admits that all of those dorky guys in the commercials invented Windows 7, and yet the company took it to market with little fear of legal reprisal.
3. Most investors today will never sign an NDA.
Talk to any Silicon Valley VC, private equity folks or others holding the purse strings, and you will realize that investors these days will only laugh you out of their office if you bring up the notion of signing an NDA. These guys hear hundreds of ideas everyday. They would have to limit consideration to one pitch per vertical in order to avoid lawyers flying out of the woodwork (and even then, they would get sued). Can you imagine the liability? We’re just the stop before them so we need to follow suit in all but the most extreme situations, like the cold fusion thing.
4. Great ideas cost too much money.
Even if you have a great idea, at the very least you’ll still need to invest some serious coin and sweat equity to get that idea to a presentable level of development. In success, you’ll have to feed the machine until everyone else finds out about your great idea and the masses agree with how brilliant you think you are. Rest assured, we’re too busy realizing our own brilliant ideas to spend the time and money to steal yours.
5. Potential liability? Just say NO.
Every signed NDA out there in the universe provides an opportunity for some anxious lawyer to work his way through the fine print and come knocking on our door because he saw our sexy signature. While there are certainly specific exceptions we make, the general rule is that each NDA we sign has the potential to keep us up at night. We barely sleep as it is.
We live in the age of exponentially fast information exchange. The world is also a bit low on genuinely novel ideas. Let’s rethink how to protect ourselves while making, as opposed to breaking, deals. We know we’ll get some feedback on this one – hopefully from both sides. Let us know what you think. And if you do, in fact, have that cold fusion thing ready to pitch…