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RIO DE JANEIRO — A Brazilian court has ruled that “Casa dos artistas,” produced and aired by local net SBT in 2001 and 2002, was an unlicensed version of “Big Brother” that infringed Endemol’s copyright.

The Sao Paulo State Court of Appeals confirmed the 2003 sentence of a municipal court, which banned SBT from airing the series, and ordered the net to pay damages of 2.25 million reals ($1.3 million) to Endemol and $3.5 million to TV Globo, the local licensee of “Big Brother.”

SBT can appeal to a higher court so it may still take a few years until Brazil’s notorious slow judicial system issues a final sentence for the case.

Endemol has licensed the “Big Brother” format to the country’s leading broadcaster, TV Globo, since 2001. But while Endemol and TV Globo prepared their first season, SBT launched “Casa dos artistas” in October 2001 to high ratings.

The SBT series tapped the main characteristic of “Big Brother” except for the fact that the participants of “Casa dos artistas” were all celebrities.

“Casa dos artistas 2” aired in 2002 to falling ratings. As TV Globo and Endemol filed their lawsuit, SBT renamed the series and aired a third and fourth seasons in 2002 and 2004, but viewership fell off.

TV Globo launched the first “Big Brother Brasil” in 2002 and notched up high ratings. This year the 10th season peaked at a 61 share of viewing and attracting a record 154,878,460 votes on the final night. The show is commissioned for an 11th season in 2011.