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ABC faces ‘Wipeout’ court case

Broadcaster claims copyright infringement

ABC is being sued by a Japanese broadcaster for what it claims is copyright infringement on hit show “Wipeout.”

Tokyo Broadcasting System said Tuesday it had lodged a suit in the federal court in Los Angeles alleging “Wipeout” appropriated ideas from three of its programs, “Takeshi’s Castle,” “Sasuke” and “Kuniochi.”

The “Takeshi’s Castle” capture-the-castle gamer aired on TBS from 1986-89 and both the show and format have sold widely around the world, with versions airing in nearly 20 countries.

“Sasuke,” a three-hour obstacle race special that has appeared on TBS periodically since 1998, also has been popular with foreign buyers and now airs in edited versions in the U.S., U.K., New Zealand, Greece and Italy. “Kuniochi” is a spin-off of “Sasuke” for female competitors.

With ad income shrinking in Japan, local networks are increasingly looking abroad for revenue streams while, as the TBS case shows, more vigorously protecting copyrights.

ABC spokeswoman Hope Hartman said the web would not comment on pending litigation.

However Cologne-based format owners org Frapa had protested a memo from Alphabet exec VP Howard Davine urging ABC Studios showrunners and executive producers to “carefully scrutinize” whether licensing foreign formats “is necessary or appropriate” (Daily Variety, Aug. 14).

(Stuart Levine in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)

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