Glee Club TV Competition Shows in Copyright Infringement Dispute

The Singing Office Screengrab - H 2011

What Fox's "Glee" has wrought: Dutch broadcaster NCRV, the creator of "The Singing Office," has accused the Canadian producer of "Canada Sings" ripping off its series' format after selling the worldwide rights to Endemol.

TORONTO -- There’s some glum faces in the world of global glee club TV competition series after Dutch broadcaster NCRV alleged the Canadian series Canada Sings is a knock-off of its The Singing Office format.

Patty Geneste, CEO of Amsterdam-based format distributor Absolutely Independent, on Friday said Insight Productions, the creator of Canada Sings, infringed on the copyright for The Singing Office by making the Canadian show without paying for the format rights.

“This is a no brainer for us,” Geneste said after recently viewing an episode of Canada Sings, which has ordinary Canadians form workplace singing groups and compete head-to-head against other employee teams.

“There’s only a few slight differences that had nothing to do with the structure or format,” she added.

The Singing Office, which has been sold into around 20 territories worldwide, also makes singing stars out of ordinary office workers.

Former 'NSync-er Joey Fatone and former Spice Girl Mel B hosted the U.S. version of The Singing Office on TLC.

But John Brunton, president and CEO of Insight Productions, said NCRV has no smoking gun because he got the inspiration for Canada Sings from Fox’s popular Glee drama series.

“We haven’t infringed on anyone’s copyright on that show,” Brunton said.

The stakes in the Dutch-Canadian format flap only got larger this week when Insight Productions announced it has sold the worldwide format rights to Canada Sings to Endemol.

Absolutely and NCRV have given Insight Productions and Endemol until Monday to respond to accusations of format plagiarism.

If Insight and Absolutely do not settle the copyright dispute on their own, the matter  is likely headed to mediation with FRAPA, which offers a dispute resolution structure for the format TV business.