Gary Feess, federal judge for the United States District Court for the Central District of California, has refused CBS’s request to block ABC’s new Glass House, which premiered 6/18. CBS wants to stop the show from airing, arguing it violates copyrights and trade secrets from its series “Big Brother.” Feess detailed his reasons in a 16-page ruling released 6/11. 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 Glass House follows 14 contestants as they live together and compete for $250,000. Similar to Big Brother, contestants will go head-to-head in competitions and will be eliminated weekly. Unlike Big Brother, America will have the chance to vote, manipulating different outcomes within the house.
CBS filed suit against ABC/Disney in May for copyright infringement, trade secret misappropriation and more.
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. 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.
CBS is looking to find out why Glass House showrunner Kenny 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.”
Feess also noted CBS is unlikely to succeed in its efforts to win copyright infringement claims. He said 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, reported Fox News/The AP.
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. 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.”
CBS 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.”