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A Legal Minute: Those Who Build “Glass Houses”

Written by Alexander Tucker   // 06/10/2012

Glass House

A Legal Minute: Those Who Build “Glass Houses”

The CBS Lawsuit Against ABC and The Glass House

Written By: Roberto “R.C.” Rondero de Mosier, Attorney At Law

It’s not often that one of the big three television networks (apologies to Fox) throws the gauntlet down against another.  On Thursday this past week, CBS filed a temporary restraining order against ABC to prevent the airing on June 18th of ABC’s new reality TV show, Glass House.  So what is the big deal anyhow?

Well, in a court filing CBS brought the hammer down on ABC claiming a number of violations of the copyright act and theft of trade secrets.  Apparently, ABC hired roughly 30 former employees of the hit CBS show, Big Brother, who were all made staff members on Glass House.  Now, it’s not exactly uncommon for television show staff to jump from one project to another, but 30 folks is pretty high.  It definitely raised eyebrows at CBS, so much so that they filed a lawsuit over Glass House about a month ago.  Still, going the extra step and tying to stop a show from airing less than two weeks out is exceptionally rare.

Glass HouseThe evidence CBS points to in its filing against ABC is pretty damning on its face.  From a producer saying he wanted to look at old Big Brother episode for inspiration to orders to Glass House staff to shred documents in anticipation of a lawsuit, these facts along with the number of former Big Brother staff, really gives CBS a good chance of winning.

I am pretty curious to see Glass House and how closely it resembles Big Brother.  I have to admit though, CBS’ lawyers have made a very compelling argument that just might keep us from ever meeting the cast.  CBS can only win this temporary injunction if they can show that by Glass House airing there will be “irreparable” damage caused to them and that they have a high likelihood of winning the lawsuit they filed a month ago.

Now, CBS can’t exactly lose money here if Glass House airs, but what can happen isThe Glass House ABC Lawsuit reality tv show ABC can profit off show revenues from a show where it appears most of the source material was practically ripped off from CBS.  According to CBS this would be their irreparable harm.  Under our laws, there is a great deal of protection for those who hold copyrights and trade secrets to prevent others from benefitting from that intellectual property.  But the trick is, no one will really know if Glass House is a blatant “rip off” like CBS lawyers wrote in their request for a restraining order until the show is viewed.  Of course, if that happens the damage could be done.

Roberto “R.C.” Rondero de Mosier is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, California, New York and Illinois.  He is a partner at Gonzalez & Mosier Law PLLC.  His practice specializes in Entertainment Law and Intellectual Property rights.  In his spare time he enjoys watching television and films, and writing about it.  Follow him on Twitter @showbizattorney, or e-mail him at rc@gonzalezmosier.com

 

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