Net accuses ABC of unfair competition

CBS has filed a copyright infringement suit against ABC, claiming that the reality series “Life in a Glass House” is a “carbon copy” of “Big Brother.”

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, also claims misappropriation of trade secrets and unfair competition.

“ABC’s ‘Glass House’ replicates every key aspect of ‘Big Brother,’ including, among other things, its plot, themes, mood, setting, pace, characters, sequence of events, and other concrete elements,” the suit states.

CBS claims that former producers and staff of “Big Brother,” including Corie Henson, Michael O’Sullivan, Kenny Rosen and at least 16 others now on the staff of “Glass House” are disclosing trade secrets and violating nonbinding disclosure agreements.

Among the compensatory and punitive damages CBS is seeking to recover are “liquidated” damages of $500,000 for each violation of non-disclosure agreements.

“We believe there is no merit to this lawsuit. The differences between ‘Glass House’ and ‘Big Brother’ are both fundamental and obvious, ranging from ‘Glass House’s’ interactive elements and audience participation to its deployment of cutting edge technologies,” said a statement from ABC.

The CBS suit claims that the trade secrets disclosed include technical processes for capturing, in a living environment, around the clock video and audio “in a way that ensures the participants cannot escape the cameras.” Also cited were technical story-producing processes “which allow the show to adhere to a schedule that is unique and unprecedented within the industry.”

The suit, filed by Scott Edelman and Michael Seitz and other attorneys at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, sets out to compare the show, noting that both use interactive features so viewers can provide input for the show, as well as a ‘return’ element where the audience may also vote to have eliminated contestants re-enter the house. Both shows involve 14 contestants living together in a house rigged with cameras, with the last person standing able to win a cash prize.

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