Television Format Rights – Simon Fuller and Simon Cowell at Legal Loggerheads Over Claims That The ‘X Factor’ Infringes ‘Pop Idol’

September 2004


Simon Fuller, the ex Spice Girls manager and owner of 19 Management and 19 TV which produces the successful Pop Idol television programmes has issued legal proceedings in the United Kingdom against Pop Idol judge and A&R executive Simon Cowell, his companies Syco and Simco and Freemantle Media (part of Bertlesmann’s RTL) alleging that Simon Cowell and Freemantle’s new talent competition ‘X Factor’ infringes the copyright in the Pop Idol programmes and Pop Idol format. The programmes share two of the same judges, Simon Cowell himself along with Boyzone Manager Louis Walsh (along with new judge Sharon Osbourne), a shared presenter (Kate Thornton who presented for Pop idol on ITV2) and alleged similarities in direction: contestants audition in front of the three judges and receive immediate comment; the deliriously happy or distraught contestants are then commiserated with, or hugged, by the presenter. Fuller is also investigating similarities in the music used, logo and other format features.

Simon Fuller also claims that a number of key Pop Idol production executives who have moved to X Factor are under non-compete clauses in their Pop Idol contracts. In an added twist, Simon Cowell is still under contract for a further two Pop Idol series in the US.

Source: The Guardian 11 September 2004

For an article by Ben Challis and Jonathan Coad in this area, “Format Fortunes: Is there Legal Recognition for the Television Format Right?“, see :

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