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CBS’ latest volley in the legal war over ABC’s forthcoming reality show Glass House is a big request for internal documents. The two sides have been arguing in court this week over whether a temporary restraining order is warranted to prohibit the June 18 debut of the reality show, which CBS claims is too similar to its Big Brother. On Wednesday, CBS delivered a motion to compel ABC to produce sensitive information. The request came in a 54-page joint filing in the ongoing lawsuit.
Among the documents CBS is demanding are all communications between ABC and various Glass House employees relating to the development, preproduction or production of the show — not just e-mails but also text messages, instant message and communications on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites.
Next, CBS wants series bibles, episode outlines, dailies, story-training manuals, master control room manuals, competition pitches, competition outlines, format pitches, format outlines, blueprints, renderings, plans, drawings, design specifications and on and on.
Of course, CBS also wants to see the show, “regardless of whether the episode is in a prebroadcast version that is not final.”
That’s not the end of it.
CBS also has targeted showrunner Kenny Rosen. The network previously deposed him for seven hours, but he was instructed not to answer certain questions on the advice of counsel.
Now CBS is seeking to settle the mystery about why Rosen supposedly directed Glass House personnel to “type up” Big Brother‘s manuals. CBS asserts that language in Glass House‘s internal materials “do in fact lift language from Big Brother‘s materials.”
Rosen purportedly has testified that Glass House was based on The Hunger Games but later he admitted that the show was more similar to Big Brother. CBS reiterates that he and ABC have only identified trivial differences.
CBS wants the documents turned over within 48 hours of a judge’s order. The network maintains this is “undoubtedly reasonable.” But ABC has delivered a rebuke to the requests.
“This case is about a television network with a stale franchise — Big Brother — that hopes aggressive litigation tactics will disrupt the premiere of a major competitor’s new, state-of-the-art reality show,” says ABC.
The defendant adds that CBS got its opportunity to depose Rosen. The deposition was limited by the judge to copyright issues, says ABC, but lawyers for CBS then used the deposition primarily to ask about trade-secret issues.
ABC adds that CBS is not entitled to “additional extremely expedited and highly onerous discovery” and that it will do no good. “This is a red herring,” the ABC lawyers write. “Big Brother has been on the air for 13 years. Everyone in America with a TV has total access to its creative expression. Even if CBS were to obtain evidence tomorrow that every employee at Glass House engaged in a massive conspiracy to copy Big Brother (which, of course, they did not), that would not provide more evidence of access beyond that which CBS already has. Nor would such a confession relieve CBS of its obligation to demonstrate substantial similarity.”
ABC already has handed over such things as the Glass House Player Handbook, plans for three approved contestant challenges, a detailed floor plan including the location of cameras, the episode structure of the show, schematics of the master control room and a list of video equipment and media management software on the show.
CBS wants more, which ABC says adds up to CBS having “‘identified’ as its secret everything Big Brother has ever done … and [it] now seeks every document referencing Big Brother in any way. It is difficult to conceive of a more transparent attempt to get documents first and figure out the claim later.”
ABC says its adversary is making a “big fuss” over things like the House Guest Manual, which it says “is [a] set of common sense instructions for contestants.”
So the case over what’s really a secret and what’s protectable in reality TV continues. A judge is expected to rule shortly on the scope of discovery that will be allowed.
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