It appears that CBS failed to convince a federal judge Friday that ABC’s Glass House should not premiere Monday because it’s too much like Big Brother.
Saying he is inclined to deny the temporary restraining order, U.S. District Judge Gary A. Feess said the differences between the two reality shows are enough to demonstrate that ABC didn’t flat-out rip off the CBS franchise. “The audience involvement playing a constant role is very likely to induce quite different behavior than one would see on Big Brother,” the judge said.
He also disputed the idea that “trade secrets” were swiped from the CBS show, since they are “generally known in the business.” He even cited a Wikipedia page that says there have been 24 copies of Big Brother made for TV. “When I first heard of Big Brother, I thought it was Survivor in a house,” the judge admitted.
The judge also said he doesn’t believe Glass House will have any impact going forward on the success of Big Brother. “I am not persuaded the adult appetite of viewers for Big Brother (will change),” he said, adding this personal note, “I thought after one or two reality shows we would never see others. Audience fascination with these shows is well understood even if some of us can’t understand it.”
An attorney for CBS made a last-minute attempt to convince Feess that Glass House stole from Big Brother “lock, stock and barrel” by showing online streams from the ABC show and how they compare to what has occurred in the past on CBS. For example, the new contestants on Glass House are already doing yoga in the backyard — just like they did on Big Brother — and they are receiving instructions from an automated voice in the main living area — just like Big Brother. The judge will consider the additional arguments made today and is expected to issue a final ruling today.
The judge stipulated that he doesn’t want to say CBS would “never have a case” when it comes to arguing over copycat shows.” It’s just “more difficult in this area. The closer we get to nonfiction (programming), it’s more difficult to argue copyright infringement.”
Even though CBS doesn’t appear to have won round one, it will continue to litigate the copyright infringement.
“We appreciate the Court’s continuing consideration of this case and our request for an injunction,” CBS said in a statement. “Win, lose or draw on the TRO, we fully intend to proceed with our claims against Disney/ABC for copyright infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets over The Glass House, which may still warrant more injunction proceedings depending on the content of each episode. At the same time, we will move forward with our individual claims for liability and liquidated damages against any current The Glass House producer who violated their Big Brother confidentiality agreement.”