Is there a way to make it so that if your doing work for someone, and they get you to do something illegal, they take responsibility? I’m guessing not, but thought I would ask. Someone who’s making a fashion/modelling page wants me to do some photo editing (i.e. Photoshop) some of her pictures. Also she got me to post a video of her where some copyrighted music was playing in the background.

Instead of having to read up on the law each time I do something, can I somehow pass the responsibility to her? For example if I get her to sign a contract saying she would defend and indemnify me for any work she has me do, would this count?

Under what circumstances would this not count out of curiosity? For example I’m assuming if someone hires an assassin to kill someone, the assassin wouldn’t get out of trouble because of the indemnification clause he had in the contract with his client. The reason why I'm not sure if indemnification is applicable in this scenario is, because isn't indemnification for damages due to failure to meet contractual obligations? To my understanding, if somethings illegal, any contract relating to it is invalid.

2 Answers 2


A contract that tells one party or another to do an illegal thing is void ab initio: courts will not recognize it or give force to it.

A contract which doesnt explicitly tell either party to do something illegal but if during the course of fulfilling either party's end of the bargain they commit an illegal act it is up to the courts discretion what happens, whether to find the contract void or to maintain the contract (its a matter of public policy whether they allow the contract to continue existing, or if the contract was such that illegal acts were expected to be commited then the court will likely remder it void)

Either way, you cannot indemnify someone for committing an illegal act.

  • If you cannot indemnify someone for committing an illegal act, when can you indemnify them? Only when they breach a contract? May 17, 2017 at 11:17
  • 1
    @plainsam101: If you hire somebody to drive fast, you can indemnify them for any damage that may happen to the engine. You may or may not be able to indemnify them for speeding tickets (jurisdiction will matter). You cannot indemnify them against being prosecuted if they cause an accident. May 17, 2017 at 15:19
  • @TimLymington Oops I meant the question not the answer. A better link for CA justia.com/trials-litigation/docs/caci/3600/3602.html
    – user4460
    May 17, 2017 at 16:33
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    @notstoreboughtdirt: "A corporation cannot conspire with itself any more than a private individual can" (from your new link) is true but does not relate to ordering illegal acts. This would be better either in chat or as a new question, depending on what exactly you are saying. May 17, 2017 at 16:37

As previously mentioned, a contract which provides for an illegal act is void. To answer what I think is your question, there is a difference between something which will result in a civil claim against you as opposed to committing a crime. You certainly could ask for indemnity for any civil damages that may result from your actions under the contract. (Whether you could collect is a different question, though.) No amount of contract mojo is going to protect you from criminal repercussions. As an extreme example, say your contract indemnified you for committing murder. Pretty sure an argument that, "Hey, leave me alone officer. I have a contract that makes this other person responsible for this murder," is not going to get you very far.

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