August 09, 2011 7:17pm PT by Eriq Gardner
'The Real World' Sued for Failing to Blur 'Shadow Dancers' (Video)
Those who watch reality television are accustomed to a good deal of pixellation. Producers often choose to blur out offensive body parts, T-shirt logos and of course, the faces of anybody who refuses to sign a release form. But does the blurring go far enough?
Maybe not, if the Global Creative Group gets its way. The company has just filed a lawsuit against the producers of MTV's The Real World, including Viacom and Bunim/Murray Productions, over some background material that very few people would have ever guessed was copyrighted.
GCG (also known as Farren Music America) produces a highly specialized kind of entertainment content -- silhouette images of women dancing. The company calls these images "Shadow Dancers," seen in the video below, which are sold to VJs, DJs, bar and club owners, party planners and nighttime establishments.
Guess who likes to party at nighttime establishments?
Real World cast members, of course, including the various folk who appeared on the New Orleans-set season of the long-running series in 2010.
The show employs some really good lawyers, who have crafted one hell of a contract for cast-members so as to escape any liability on things like rape, death, and STDs. Unfortunately, the lawyers forgot about the risk of background "Shadow Dancers."
According to a lawsuit filed in California, GCG has "invested substantial money, time, effort, and creative talent to protect and properly develop its copyrighted materials." GCG believes that failure to blur out those "Shadow Dancers" during several episodes of the show constitutes copyright infringement.
The company says it approached producers about a license to display the copyrighted material. GCG wanted to charge $100,000 for a five-year term. MTV rejected the offer, according to the complaint, saying the material shown was de minimis (legal speak for "Are you f-- kidding me?") and thus, a fair use of copyrighted material.
Now, Viacom is facing a lawsuit that seeks maximum statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringement (2 episodes, repeats ad nauseum, you do the math), unjust profits from the show, an injunction and legal fees. Blur away.