May 04, 2012 12:31pm PT by Matthew Belloni
CBS Lawyers Threaten ABC Over 'Big Brother'-Type Show 'Glass House'
CBS lawyers are threatening ABC over a recently announced reality show called Life in a Glass House, which CBS claims is a direct rip-off of the long-running hit Big Brother.
In a cease-and-desist letter sent Friday to top ABC executives Anne Sweeney and Alan Braverman and obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, CBS lawyer Scott Edelman of the Gibson Dunn firm says Glass House is "strikingly" similar to Big Brother, which CBS has aired since 2000.
"In the strongest possible terms, we must admonish ABC and anyone involved in the development or production of Glass House that they will be acting at their own peril if they continue to proceed in this manner," Edelman writes, "and that CBS has instructed us to pursue all available remedies if this course of conduct continues."
CBS also claims that the new ABC series is being produced by Big Brother veterans who might reveal private information about the inner workings of the show. Specifically, ABC alternative development executive Corie Henson is a Big Brother alum, and both Kenny Rosen and Mike O'Sullivan worked on the show. THR has learned that those individuals also received similar cease-and-desist letters,
"Even worse, CBS is informed that Glass House is being produced by a team of at least 18 former members of CBS' Big Brother production staff -- all of whom were privy to trade secrets and other confidential, proprietary information and signed broad and binding nondisclosure agreements in connection with Big Brother," the letter reads.
This isn't the first spat over similar reality television shows. In a famous case, Wife Swap producer RDF Media fought with Fox over the apparent knockoff Trading Spouses, and a similar feud broke out over I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!, which was allegedly too similar to Survivor. Both cases settled.
CBS claims ABC's show would violate the copyright in Big Brother. Both shows feature contestants living together in a house rigged with cameras and competing to avoid eviction for a six-figure cash prize.
"In short, ABC has used nearly identical protectable elements that form the essence of Big Brother and copies them in creating Glass House, establishing a classic case of copyright infringement," the letter reads.
We've reached out to ABC for comment and will update with a response.
More to come.