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CBS files a (fascinating) lawsuit over Glass House’s connections to Big Brother

After warning ABC about the connections between its announced series Glass House and CBS’ Big Brother, CBS has filed suit.

The full lawsuit [PDF] (via The Hollywood Reporter’s story) sues Disney, ABC, producers, and many individuals who now work on the ABC show but used to work on the CBS show, claiming ABC’s “is a carbon copy of Big Brother and an obvious attempt by Defendants to capitalize on its unique success.” The lawsuit says there has been “blatant theft of its copyrightable expression, trade secrets, and other confidential and proprietary information.”

Most comical is the section that describes the show:

“Big Brother is a ground-breaking reality television show that involves a contest among guests who live in a house and who are filmed continuously, perform challenges and tasks, and vote each other off the show. … Big Brother was the first series of its kind to combine the drama and competition of elimination with the developing teelvision genre of modern observational documentary.

Um, anyone at CBS ever hear of Survivor? Or ABC’s Making the Band, which premiered months earlier and did exactly that? (There is a chance they are referring to the original Dutch format that it is based on, but the language demonstrates one of the challenges of these kinds of claims.) The lawsuit also cites “unique interactive features” of the show that include America’s Player and the 24-hour feed, and compares them to Glass House‘s announced format.

The lawsuit–worth a read because of all the details it goes into–mentions that producers had access to “critically important documents”: the “House Guest Manual,” “Producer’s Binder,” and “Story Producer’s Handbook,” and also cites the producers and crew members’ “unprecedented and troubling degree of access to CBS’s copyrightable expression, as well as CBS’s protected trade secrets and other confidential and proprietary information related to the behind-the-scenes development, filming, and production of Big Brother.” It insists that “none of these protected trade secrets can be discovered or ‘reverse engineered’ merely by watching Big Brother.”

In other words: Big Brother is much, much harder to produce than it seems. You try to get a challenge to ejaculate on a mentally unstable person who’s being manipulated by flirty producers.

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


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