Orwellian suit socks ‘Brother’

Case alleges similarities between skein and '1984' novel

“Big Brother,” the CBS reality show, has been hit with a lawsuit claiming that the program illegally borrows from the classic George Orwell novel “1984.”

The complaint, filed last month in U.S. District Court in Chicago by Marvin Rosenblum, a Chicago attorney who acquired the motion picture and television rights to “1984” from Orwell’s estate, alleges that producer Orwell Prods., CBS and corporate parent Viacom have intentionally created a show that viewers will believe is connected to or approved by the owners of Orwell’s novel.

The television series is set in a house in which the inhabitants are watched by video cameras 24 hours a day and directed and interviewed by an unseen person called “Big Brother.”

Plaintiff’s attorney William Coulson also pointed to the fact that the producers called their company Orwell Prods. as proof that they’re trading on the connection to the novel.

“I’ll take my chances with this case before any Chicago jury,” he added.

A CBS spokesman declined to comment.

According to the complaint, Rosenblum produced a 1985 movie, entitled “1984,” starring John Hurt and Richard Burton. In addition, he has developed computer games based on the book and has attempted to sell a television show, also based on the novel.

The complaint charges violations of the federal Lanham Act, alleging that the uses of the name “Big Brother” and “Orwell Prods.” mislead the public as to the source of the series, and U.S. copyright law, alleging that the show infringes the copyright in the novel “1984.”

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