CBS throws legal stones at ‘Glass House’

Network files again in effort to stop ABC reality skein

CBS has weighed in again in its legal efforts to halt ABC’s “Glass House,” contending that it faces a lower burden to show that the reality series is a ripoff of “Big Brother” because of the access that producers had to trade secrets.

In a filing Tuesday in Los Angeles federal court, CBS was steadfast that “both shows will feature the same expressive quality that is uniquely ‘Big Brother’s’ and which it pioneered.” CBS is seeking a temporary restraining order to stop “Glass House” before it debuts on June 18.

“‘Big Brother’ takes a format where contestants are sequestered in a house, filmed around the clock by 50 cameras and placed in competitive situations where alliances will form and tensions will rise, and the show depicts that form of competition with heightened reality and voyeurism because the episodes are broadcast shortly after the events occur and with minimal alteration or editing,” CBS’ legal team, led by Scott Edelman of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, wrote in a filing. The network added that ABC has “failed to identify a single show (other than their own) that features the same compilation of elements” as “Big Brother” does.

It also emphasized that while courts have ruled against many reality-show infringement claims, the difference in this case lies in access.

CBS once again focused on a deposition given last week by “Glass House” executive producer Kenny Rosen, a former producer of “Big Brother” after ABC minimized Rosen’s admission that an assistant typed up a “Big Brother” guest house manual. CBS attorneys also contended that former employees of “Big Brother” were hired “specifically for the knowledge” that they gained on the show. And they dismissed ABC’s contention that the emails that Rosen deleted after the suit was filed were “non-substantive.” The court or CBS should determine whether the emails “are pertinent to this litigation,” CBS said.

The network charged that ABC and the “Glass House” producers “continually change” their story. “They used to say their show is not final; now they do not,” the CBS filing stated.

U.S. District Judge Gary Allen Feess has yet to set a hearing in the case.

Although CBS claims that ABC is glossing over the similarities, ABC contends that “Glass House” does not infringe because the resemblance between the shows involves generic ideas deployed throughout reality television. ABC has also underscored some differences between the shows, like “Big Brother’s” use of a host, Julie Chen. In its filing on Monday, ABC contended that the hiring of “Big Brother” employees is an industry norm in the tight-knit world of reality TV.