April 05, 2011 7:31am PT by Eriq Gardner
Fox, Spike TV Win Lawsuits Claiming Idea Theft
Producers of the television show Pros vs. Joes and the film Alien vs. Predator have both survived separate copyright claims by writers who alleged they first conceived the material but couldn't get judges to find any "substantial similarity."
In the first case, Christopher Castorina and Steven Morse alleged in a lawsuit brought last year that the Spike reality show Pros vs. Joes, pitting professional athletes versus amateurs, was a rip-off of their own copyrighted treatment for a reality show called Two Left Feet.
In a decision on March 24, a New York judge ruled that producers of reality shows can be sued for infringement if it's shown that someone else besides the producer "selected, coordinated, and arranged" certain original elements of a competition. However, in this case, the judge found the plaintiffs' treatment to be vague, consisting of largely "stock concepts and 'scenes a faire,' such as fielding a baseball hit by a professional baseball player, and images depicting 'panic, tension, relief, or failure,'" which was not detailed enough to cause an objective observer to find any substantial similarity between Pros vs. Joes and Two Left Feet.
Akin to this decision, a Los Angeles judge recently reviewed a lawsuit brought by James Muller against Twentieth Century Fox for allegedly using his script as the basis for Alien vs. Predator.
Unfortunately for the plaintiff, in a decision on March 30, the judge found Muller's script, titled The Lost Continent, and the film's script to "tell two very different stories."
The Fox film was about a battle between extraterrestrial creatures; The Lost Continent was about "a government-led expedition to the Antarctic to investigate a mysterious structure below the frozen surface, a secret plan by a group called the 'Freemasons' to recover a powerful crystal from the ancient city of Atlantis, and attacks by stone gargoyles come-to-life."
The dialogue, which was claimed to be similar, wasn't nearly so, said the judge in an opinion that dismissed the case.