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CBS Sues ABC, Claiming New Show Is Copy Of 'Big Brother'

05/11/2012 | 01:19pm US/Eastern

--CBS says pending ABC release is "carbon copy" of "Big Brother"

--Alleges 19 "Big Brother" staff employed on "Glass House" production

--Seeks halt order, unspecified damages

(Adds details in fourth through seventh paragraphs.)

   By William Launder 

NEW YORK (DOW JONES)--CBS Corp. (>> CBS Corporation) has sued Walt Disney Corp.'s (>> The Walt Disney Company) ABC division, alleging the network's upcoming "Life in a Glass House" reality show breaches copyright law by creating a "carbon copy" of CBS' hit series "Big Brother."

According to a complaint filed by CBS in Los Angeles federal court Thursday, ABC's "Glass House" "replicates every key aspect of 'Big Brother,' including, among other things, its plot, themes, mood, setting, pace, characters, sequence of events." It also notes that at least 19 former staff members from "Big Brother" are employed on the ABC show.

The suit makes good on a cease-and-desist order filed by CBS last week, which calls on ABC to cancel "Glass House" ahead of its scheduled June 18 premiere.

Reality show creators borrow heavily from the success of earlier show hits, evident in the similarities between hits like Fox's "American Idol," owned by News Corp. (NWS, NWSA), and "The Voice," by Comcast Corp.'s (CMCSA, CMCSK) NBC Universal. News Corp. owns Dow Jones & Co., publisher of this newswire.

NBC Universal last year successfully defended itself against a lawsuit that alleged its weight-loss show hit "The Biggest Loser" infringed copyright law.

"Any time a new show comes out that's basically the same idea, there are always these kinds of charges," said Lance Lieberman, an intellectual property attorney at law firm Cozen O'Connor. Lieberman said the burden of proof would lie with CBS to show ABC was directly infringing on ideas unique to "Big Brother."

"Independent creation is a complete defense to a charge of copyright infringement," he said.

CBS is seeking an unspecified amount in damage compensation and a court order to halt the infringing elements of the show, naming Disney and several former CBS employees in the complaint.

CBS alleges that "Glass House" steals "copyrightable expression, trade secrets, and other confidential and proprietary information" from the show.

ABC said "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."

--By William Launder, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-3412;

Stocks mentioned in the article : CBS Corporation, The Walt Disney Company
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