Glasshouse not a copy of Big Brother

August 2012



That fine line between inspiration and infringement – and what copyright really is – here from the tricky world of TV format rights has been back in the US courts and the IPKat reports that the network channel CBS had been scrambling to put a stop to its rival ABC from launching its new reality series, “Glass House,” which CBS believed violated copyright and trade secrets of its show “Big Brother.”

Both reality shows involve contestants living in a large house, following rules and competing in games until one contestant remains standing and wins a cash prize.  Glass House inexplicably chose to begin the show with 14 contestants, the same number as in Big Brother, but even so, and even though producers of Big Brother had defected to ABC to work on the competing show, a judge refused to find infringing similarity, saying the show wasn’t a rip-off of  Unfortunately for CBS,  US judge Gary A Feess said that the differences between the two reality shows are enough to demonstrate that ABC didn’t flat-out rip off the CBS franchise, largely because the audience has a role to play in deciding the fate of Glass House contestants.  “The audience involvement playing a constant role is very likely to induce quite different behaviour than one would see on Big Brother,” said the judge after saying he was not inclined to grant the preliminary injunction.  The premier went on as planned, to dismal ratings

See also Format fortunes: Is there now a legal recognition of format rights?  (Ben Challis & Jonathan Coad, 2004)  – which may remind you that  Big Brother itself had to fight of a claim that it was a copy of an earlier reality format, Survivor). Thanks to Tara for the story, and she will be much missed from the IPKat pages!

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