A Montreal lawyer and entrepreneur that appeared on Dragons’ Den might have his case heard by Canada’s Supreme Court, after he alleged that the popular CBC show aired a bad faith broadcast that completely misrepresented the merits of his business plan.
The story was first reported by the Financial Post.
Marc Ribeiro, a lawyer and founder of MHR Board Game Design Inc., went on the program to seek investment from the Dragons for his board game, Pick N Choose, which requires players to guess a clue using charades, drawings or props.
One Dragon used modelling clay to make a penis during the show, while Arlene Dickinson told Ribeiro he should turn it into “an adult game.”
Back in December Ribeiro lost in the Ontario Court of Appeals, when it said he had no grounds to sue the CBC for “gross and reckless negligence, intentional misconduct, malice and bad faith” over an unflattering portrayal on the program.
Indeed, part of the agreement for appearing on the television show states “I further understand that my appearance, depiction and/or portrayal in the program may be disparaging, defamatory, embarrassing or of an otherwise unfavourable nature which may expose me to public ridicule, humiliation or condemnation.”
However, the law might change if the Supreme Court of Canada decides to hear the case. It’ll make a decision tomorrow, and if the answer is no then the whole ordeal is done with.
It’s an interesting point of debate, as the Post pointed out. On one hand, “who in their right mind would consent to be defamed, then sue after the fact?” asked writer Drew Hasselback. But then again, is it fair to ask these entrepreneurs to sign away their reputation, especially now since many entrepreneurs view a shot Dragons’ Den as a huge asset in building their company?
“The issue has now morphed into a question of bargaining power, which is also of interest to lawyers,” wrote the Post. “Is there something about the way such consents are obtained or drafted that is so lopsided or unfair that they should be void for reasons of public policy?”
There have been a few cases like this one in the past, when Brantford, Ontario’s John Tunnel argued that the consent and release agreement he signed was contrary to public policy. He tried suing twice, unsuccessfully. The appellate court wrote:“The Contestant Guide alerted the appellant to read the consent for the detailed rules about the show. Before the taping, the appellant was given ample time to read the consent and was free to ask for more time to review it. He did not ask for more time and signed the consent without expressing any concern about its terms.”
We’ve all known for a while that former Dragons like Kevin O’Leary can spit fire when angered on the show, and that can lead to insults flying all over the place. The question is, is it fair for show editors to pick and choose with parts of the show they’ll air.
We’ll find out tomorrow.