Judge details reasons for not blocking ABC show

June 22, 2012 - 4:47 PM

Reality TV-Glass House Controversy

This June 18, 2012 photo released by ABC shows contestants Apollo, left, and Jeffrey are shown during the premiere episode of "The Glass House." A federal judge on Friday sided with ABC that “Glass House” does not violated rival network CBS’ copyright and trade secret interests and that the “Big Brother” network is unlikely to win the case. (AP Photo/ABC, Nicole Wilder)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — CBS is unlikely to succeed in its efforts to win copyright infringement claims over rival network ABC's new show "The Glass House," a federal judge said Friday.

U.S. District Judge Gary Feess has refused to block "Glass House," which premiered Monday, and detailed his reasons in a 16-page ruling released Friday.

CBS wants to stop the show from airing, arguing it violates copyrights and trade secrets from its series "Big Brother."

Feess, however, noted the unpredictable nature of reality television and said the genre does not generally include plot or other expressions of ideas that are subject to copyright protection. Ideas alone cannot be protected by copyright, and courts must consider how the ideas are expressed when disputes arise.

Both shows employ dozens of cameras to check in on a houseful of contestants vying for a cash prize, but Feess ruled the shows are likely to play out very differently.

"Until the cameras begin to record, there is no plot, there is no (dialogue), there is no pace or sequence of events, and there are no fixed characters because there is no author," his ruling stated. "There is a setting, which is hardly novel, and some general ideas regarding the structure of the show, but little else."

"'Reality,' it turns out, is hard to copy," Feess wrote.

The ruling is unlikely to end the fight between the two networks. CBS says it will continue to pursue the case and is seeking additional evidence from ABC and "Glass House" producers.

"This is only one preliminary step in a long road; we will now aggressively move two steps forward," CBS wrote in a statement. The network has argued that nearly 30 former "Big Brother" staffers are now working on "Glass House" and some may have violated confidentiality agreements.

Feess agreed with ABC attorneys who argued that many of the filming techniques employed on "Glass House" are not unique to "Big Brother" and are used in other reality shows.

"We're pleased the Court agreed with ABC's arguments that The Glass House is a very different show and people working in the reality television industry should not be prevented from bringing their skills to a new employer," ABC wrote in a statement. "We are thrilled viewers will now get a chance to continue to enjoy and participate in ABC's The Glass House."

The rivalry between the two networks hasn't just been confined to the courtroom or airwaves. CBS on Wednesday issued a tongue-in-cheek news release claiming it's developing a reality series called "Dancing on the Stars" — a jab at ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."

CBS described the mock series — staged in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery — as featuring "moderately famous and sort of well-known people" who will compete by dancing on stars' graves.

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Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP .