A federal judge has yet to decide whether to grant CBS’ request to block the premiere of ABC’s new reality show The Glass House, but that hasn’t stopped the two networks from continuing to quibble via court filings. The latest comes from CBS, which filed a reply brief today in response to ABC’s reply brief from yesterday (goodness!) over whether Glass House is a blatant copycat of Big Brother. For now, Glass House is still on schedule to debut June 18, unless CBS triumphs with its request for a temporary restraining order.
CBS’ basic beef is that Glass House, which has already assembled 14 contestants in a house outfitted with cameras and one-way mirrors, is too much like its long-running franchise Big Brother. CBS’ latest source of grief that was included in today’s filing: “Instead of disputing whether they are copying, (ABC) simply try to rationalize it, claiming that ‘when a successful reality show develops a good idea, other shows observe that idea and incorporate it into their own show.’ But CBS is not complaining about the copying of an idea. What defendants did here was entirely different: They had an extraordinary level of access to Big Brother, used it to produce Glass House, then lifted not just a few of Big Brother’s elements, but the entire protectable expression and compilation of them. And now, only after the fact, do defendants try to latch onto trivial rule changes, which are insignificant distinctions.”
And then, there’s this: “It simply does not do for defendants to caricature Big Brother as ‘people living in a house, competing with each other to avoid elimination, and winning a prize.’ That is as useful as saying that Sherlock Holmes lacks copyrightable expression because it is just ‘the idea of a detective and a sidekick, who live in London, and use disguises and forensic science to solve crimes.'”
And in response to ABC claims that the inner workings of Big Brother are readily available on the Internet: “Defendants’ attack on CBS’ trade secrets suffer from a fatal defect: If Big Brother’s materials are publicly available, and/or valueless ‘common sense,’ then why was it necessary for [executive producer Kenny] Rosen — who testifies of having ‘worked in television production for over 15 years’ and of ‘working my way up the ranks from Story Editor to Co-Executive Producer’ on Big Brother — to consult them, disclose them to his colleagues, and have them ‘typed up?’ The answer is obvious: Mr. Rosen did so because he believed the materials were valuable and he needed them to produce Glass House.“
There’s more, but you have to be catching the drift by now, right?
Meanwhile, all this back and forth has surely increased awareness of ABC’s new show. The Alphabet Network claims it’s already spent $16 million in promotional costs, but the amount of press generated by CBS’ legal claims has certainly done more for the show than any promo that airs during, say, The Bachelorette. And it’s not over yet. U.S. District Judge Gary Feess promised an expedited hearing, though no date has been set.