Endemol, Globo win ‘Big’ case

SBT's 'Casa' copies 'Brother' format too closely sez Brazilian judge

AMSTERDAM — A Brazilian court has levied multimillion-dollar damages against Brazil’s second-ranking channel SBT for broadcasting what the judge called “a badly disguised and rude copy” of Endemol and Globo’s “Big Brother” format.

SBT’s “Casa dos Artistas” (House of Artists), featuring a lineup of B-list celebrities and local sex symbols, has given “Big Brother” a run for its money in ratings in Brazil and at times has trounced it.

Judge Paulo Campos Filho said there were enormous similarities between the two programs, adding, “These similarities are not by chance; it’s a badly disguised and rude copy of the format ‘Big Brother,’ ” noting that whole paragraphs from “Casa’s” scripts had been taken from Endemol scripts.

The judge ordered SBT to pay Endemol and Globo some 8.25 million reals ($3.2 million) in material damages. Endemol and Globo each will be awarded additional damages based on loss of earnings as a result of the unfair competition. Campos Filho also issued a new injunction forbidding SBT from broadcasting “Casa,” under threat of a penalty of $195,000 for every illicit broadcast.

The ruling can be appealed but the judgment is being seen as significant, not just in its monetary amount, but in its recognition of copyright protection regarding formats. Peter Langenberg, executive director of Endemol operations in Latin America, called it a “major step toward proper copyright protection of formats in Brazil,” noting it should also have “a positive effect on our current legal cases in Mexico and Chile.”

Globo’s “Big Brother Brazil” is the first production to come out of the joint venture between Endemol and Globo, the latter one of the world’s biggest TV operators.

Endemol senior legal counsel Fleur Mooren called the ruling “an important victory” against copycats, “especially in South America,” adding it gave Endemol confidence in the outcome of other such cases in the future. SBT said it would appeal.

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