CBS throws the first stone at ‘The Glass House’

“The Glass House,” a reality show planning to air on ABC, may have more than a few similarities to the CBS show “Big Brother.” Both shows bring strangers together in one house, where audio and video recording devices monitor every move contestants make.

CBS says the premise is the same, so it’s suing Disney-ABC and its “Glass House” producers for copyright infringement and trade secret violations. It also sought a temporary restraining order to block the show’s premier.

But a federal judge in Los Angeles thinks “Glass House” is just one, among many, other Hollywood derivatives. The lawsuit to seek a temporary restraining order to block the summer premiere of “The Glass House” failed in court. The U.S. District Court judge said he doubted whether CBS would succeed in its infringement suit and declared “Big Brother” was not copyright-able.

Court injunctions against TV shows are rare. Judges feel that many network shows are already similar. Isolating one alleged copycat show from all the rest could set off a firestorm of lawsuits. How close in content or looks would one show have to be to another to be considered a violation of intellectual property law?

Many courts also believe that competitiveness is stifled if networks and shows’ creativity are reined in, even if some of that inventiveness is not altogether original.

Apparently, several of the new ABC show’s producers were former “Big Brother” employees. Those producers are also named in a CBS liability lawsuit for violating job confidentiality agreements.

The judge’s dismissal of the injunction to stop “The Glass House” won’t stop CBS from trying to shatter it. The network plans to monitor each episode of the new reality show and ask for more injunctions in federal court.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “CBS loses bid to block ABC’s ‘Glass House’ premiere,” Scott Collins, June 15, 2012