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It's Become Impossible

Updated: Jul 29, 2020

Perhaps now more than ever due to CoVID-19, agreements in which you entered during a time more suitable for conducting business have become impossible or near impossible to fulfill. For example, perhaps you are a musician or recording label whose fan base loves the nostalgic sound and feel of turntables, so you contracted last year to have this year's album release run a limited press of vinyl. However, not only are your customers less likely to buy music in multiple formats in this economy, the brick-and-mortar stores at which your listeners shop for vinyl have now closed.

Similarly disappointing, maybe you are a visual artist or public speaker commissioned by an American event promoter for an August appearance in Paris and now find yourself on the wrong side of a travel moratorium. Having already accepted a deposit to hold the date, the organizer is insisting you still perform or fully refund the deposit.

Such situations may be covered by one of two concepts in contract law. First, your purpose for contracting may now be frustrated. In other words, contract fulfillment may still be technically possible, but the ultimate goal to which this contract was a means has been rendered all but moot by the health and economic crises. In our first example, the artist or recording company could in fact still order 10,000 vinyl records, but the law recognizes that they should not have to if the avenues for selling these records are now closed through no fault of the artist or recording company (especially if the records have not yet been pressed so the manufacturer has incurred little to no monetary harm thus far).

Alternatively, the ability to perform your half of the contract may now be impossible. In the second example, the visual artist or public speaker will probably not be granted permission by the E.U. to travel to Europe, and it is therefore impossible for them to fulfill their contractual obligations through no fault of their own. Depending on the specific facts, the artist/speaker may not even necessarily be obligated to return portions of the deposit already spent.

If you signed a contract prior to key events in the timeline of the CoVID-19 pandemic and now find it impossible or impractical to go through with the agreement, feel free to contact us. We will review the contract with you and explain your rights and obligations. Even if the whys and hows of canceling the contract are not specifically laid out (or written contrary to law), we can contact the opposing party on your behalf to assert your position. As well, if you have been recently offered a performance contract that has even a small chance of being affected by CoVID-19, have us negotiate the terms so that we may include specific language that delineates how your rights and obligations can and will change as the pandemic worsens or subsides.

Blog posts are not legal advice nor representation.

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