CBS Sues ABC Over 'Big Brother'-Type Reality Show 'Glass House'

Big Brother - TV Still - H - 08/04/11

CBS has followed through on its threat last week to bring a legal action against ABC over the planned reality show Life in a Glass House. CBS believes the show is a "carbon copy" rip-off of its Big Brother and is being produced by a team that formerly worked on the long-running hit series. 

Read the Complaint Here

A source tells The Hollywood Reporter that the lawsuit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. In the complaint, a copy of which was obtained by THR, CBS alleges causes of action for copyright infringement, trade secret misappropriation, unfair competition, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty, among others.

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Both shows feature contestants living together in a house rigged with cameras and competing to avoid eviction for a six-figure cash prize. CBS "seeks to stop Defendants' blatant theft of its copyrightable expression, trade secrets, and other confidential and proprietary information in connection with the development and production of Glass House," according to the lawsuit.

CBS also alleges the ABC show is being produced by at least 19 former producers and staff from Big Brother.

“We believe there is no merit to this lawsuit," an ABC rep tells THR in a statement. "The differences between Glass House and Big Brother are both fundamental and obvious, ranging from Glass House’s interactive elements and audience participation to its deployment of cutting edge technologies.”

As we first reported May 4, CBS lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to top ABC executives Anne Sweeney and Alan Braverman claiming that Glass House is "strikingly" similar to Big Brother, which CBS has aired since 2000.

"In the strongest possible terms, we must admonish ABC and anyone involved in the development or production of Glass House that they will be acting at their own peril if they continue to proceed in this manner," CBS lawyer Scott Edelman wrote, "and that CBS has instructed us to pursue all available remedies if this course of conduct continues."

Read the Letter Here

CBS claims that the new ABC series is being produced by Big Brother veterans who might reveal private information about the inner workings of the show. Specifically, ABC alternative development executive Corie Henson is a Big Brother alum, and both Kenny Rosen and Mike O'Sullivan worked on the show. All three are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

This isn't the first spat over similar reality television shows. In a famous case, Wife Swap producer RDF Media fought with Fox over the apparent knockoff Trading Spouses, and a similar feud broke out over I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!, which allegedly was too similar to Survivor. Both cases settled.

"In short, ABC has used nearly identical protectable elements that form the essence of Big Brother and copies them in creating Glass House, establishing a classic case of copyright infringement," the CBS letter said.

The suit, filed by Edelman, Theane Evangelis Kapur, Blaine Evanson and Michael Seitz of LA's Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, names as defendants ABC, parent The Walt Disney Co., Disney Enterprises, Disney/ABC Television Group, Keep Calm and Carry On Prods, Corie Henson, Michael O'Sullivan and Kenny Rosen.


Twitter: @THRMattBelloni