American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, and America’s Got Talent were at the center of a recent lawsuit, where an Australian man accused the creators of ripping off his ideas. Plaintiff Paul Thayil alleged that, in 1997, he created a marketing plan for two shows, “MusicFlow” and “ShyDancer.” The projects contained many elements now seen on television, including multi-city tours, judges, “going to Hollywood,” talent discovery, and rounds of competitions.
Thayil says he gave his plan to an Australian Newspaper, to EMI Music, and Sony Music. The concepts were rejected. He alleges copyright infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets, and unfair competition. Thayil also attempted to bring a claim that the defendants violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, typically used against mobsters.
U.S. District Judge rejected Thayil’s claims with prejudice because the plaintiff could not show that his marketing plan was copyrighted, nor that any of his “generalized abstractions” were protectable. The judge also dismissed conspiracy claims, since none of the elements of the crime were met.
Should reality show formats be protected or protectable? How would one express those ideas to make the format copyrightable?
For more information, see: The Hollywood Reporter.