RDF charges ‘Spouse’ abuse

Reality TV takes to the courts

Viewers were glued to the finales of reality competitions “The Apprentice” and “Survivor” last week — but reality’s real battle is being waged backstage.

In the latest of reality TV’s string of lawsuits, “Wife Swap” producer RDF Media filed suit Dec. 16 against Fox and Rocket Science Laboratories, charging that “Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy” was a big, fat ripoff.

RDF argued that “Trading Spouses” looks too much like “Wife Swap” — from its editing to its opening credits montage.

“In our view, this is the most clear-cut case of copyright theft in the history of the reality genre,” says RDF programs director Stephen Lambert.

RDF, which produces “Wife Swap” for ABC, is looking for at least $18 million in damages ($1 million for each episode aired so far).

An RDF victory would send shockwaves through the reality TV business, where copycat formats are prevalent (“The Benefactor” or “The Rebel Billionaire,” anyone?)

But observers aren’t betting on RDF, noting a court turned down NBC’s attempts to stop Fox’s “The Next Great Champ,” while another judge dismissed a suit by CBS over ABC’s “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!”

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