Move claims ABC series copies the Eye's 'Big Brother'

CBS is seeking a temporary restraining order to halt ABC’s production and broadcast of “Glass House,” claiming that the Alphabet web’s upcoming reality series “will replicate virtually every element” of “Big Brother.”

ABC is scheduled to debut “Glass House” on June 18, but CBS filed suit last month claiming copyright infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets and violation of non disclosure agreements. The latter claim is based on the fact that so many former staffers of “Big Brother” now work on “Glass House,” and CBS charges that they’ve used proprietary production techniques in the new show.

The Eye network’s request for a restraining order, filed late Thursday, centered on Sunday’s marathon deposition testimony of “Glass House” executive producer Kenny Rosen, former producer of “Big Brother.” CBS’s legal team, led by Scott Edelman of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, cited portions of Rosen’s deposition to claim that he had an the “guest manual” for “Big Brother” typed up and sent to ABC’s in-house counsel. CBS even charged that its manuals were “plagiarized” for use in the internal manuals of “Glass House.” They also were to cite Rosen’s testimony that he looked at the “Big Brother” master control room schedule to see how many people he needed to hire for “Glass House.” And CBS will also point to testimony from Rosen that he deleted emails after the lawsuit was filed. Another producer, Corie Henson, also is named in CBS’ suit, and the network will claim that she took a spot as VP of alternative series at ABC at the same time that “Glass House” was hatched. The Eye network also was to claim that, based on Rosen’s deposition, “Glass House” now employs 27 to 28 former “Big Brother” staffers, from the 19 originally thought.

If the court does not grant the restraining order, CBS is asking that ABC and the producers of “Glass House” produce the first taped episode by June 15 to allow them to evaluate its contents as it seeks a preliminary injunction.

The network also is continuing to pursue its copyright claim, arguing that, even as so many reality shows seem to replicate the ideas and general format of another, its “method” of storytelling earns protection. “Regardless whether the individual elements of ‘Big Brother’ are protectable expression or not, they are indisputably protected if they are ‘selected, coordinated or arranged … in an original way,” CBS’s brief states. Although some courts have failed to find infringement in some reality shows, “no previous case involved the same level of similarity and copying as this one,” the network said.

In a court filing earlier this week, ABC called CBS’ characterization of Rosen’s deposition testimony “misleading, inaccurate and wrong.” “For example, it is misleading — and frankly irrelevant to the legal claims — that Mr. Rosen said he hired more than tenty people with prior experience on ‘Big Brother.’ What CBS does not tell this court is that Mr. Rosen also testified to the vast majority of these people worked with Mr. Rosen more recently on a different reality show, “Hell’s Kitchen,” that has nothing to do with “Big Brother.” They also said that it was “preposterous” for CBS to argue that a “one page outdated master control room schedule from an old season og ‘Big Brother’ is a trade secret.” They added that Rosen ultimately decided how many story editors to hire based on the budget available to him for “Glass House,” and that it was less than half the number than on “Big Brother.”

ABC further claims that CBS doesn’t even know what “Glass House’ will be because it has yet to air. “Instead of focusing on what the ‘Glass House’ show would be, CBS’s counsel spent the majority of the deposition asking questions about trade secret issues and Mr. Rosen’s recruitment of other employees.”

ABC is represented by a legal team led by Glenn Pomerantz and Munger, Tolles & Olson. Rosen, Henson and another staffer named in the suit, Michael O’Sullivan, are represented by Devin McRae of Early Sullivan.

Rosen responded in a statement on Friday morning. “CBS first tried to intimidate me and then sued me for agreeing to work for a competing network,” he said. “What CBS is doing is wrong on many levels and I look forward to our day in court.”

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