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Federal Judge Gary Allen Feess has denied a request by CBS for a temporary restraining order to stop ABC reality show The Glass House, which now will air Monday night as scheduled.
In a packed courthouse Friday, the judge said that if anyone would be hurt by a TRO, it would be ABC because the network would lose its investment in the show, the crew would lose their jobs, and the contestants would lose the time and effort they put into the show.
Feess said he did not think the CBS argument that Glass House would violate the copyright on Big Brother was very strong, adding that production techniques are not a form of intellectual property. “I don’t know that Glass House will have any impact on Big Brother,” the judge said in his courtroom in downtown Los Angeles. “Big Brother will go forward.”
The judge said a TRO could be very anti-competitive, so the court must consider such a motion very carefully. He said California law favors competition, and the fact that some of the same people worked on both Glass House and Big Brother is not a reason to see it as a violation. He said a producer or crewmember’s knowledge and experience is portable from one show to another.
The judge said he did not see that there were trade secrets being stolen because CBS has allowed tours of the Big Brother set and control room, and much of what is being done is common industry practice.
“CBS has not persuaded us that it will succeed on its claims” in a full trial, the judge said, calling many of the elements of the show “generic.”
He said that while there are similarities between the two shows, “the idea, in my view, cannot be copyrighted.”
While he has not seen an episode of Glass House yet, the judge said what he has seen suggests the shows will be quite different. He referred to a declaration by the executive producer, which explained how Glass House would differ in terms of lighting, design, camera work and the nature of the game.
Feess said that when reality shows became common years ago, he thought the whole genre would burn out quickly but was proved wrong. He said it has shown him that there are many ways to do such shows, and he expects this will be another iteration.
The judge noted that CBS is still free to bring further legal action and, after discovery and testimony, might prevail. But for now the judge is not convinced, and the show will go on as scheduled Monday night on ABC.
CBS issued the following statement on Friday:
“We appreciate the Court’s continuing consideration of this case and our request for an injunction. Win, lose or draw on the TRO, we fully intend to proceed with our claims against Disney/ABC for copyright infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets over The Glass House, which may still warrant more injunction proceedings depending on the content of each episode. At the same time, we will move forward with our individual claims for liability and liquidated damages against any current The Glass House producer who violated their Big Brother confidentiality agreement.”
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