By Jennifer Armstrong
July 30, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

Q Rival net execs are up in arms over Fox’s quickie reality shows ”The Next Great Champ” and ”Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy” — which bear a striking likeness to long-announced projects from NBC (”The Contender”) and ABC (”Wife Swap”). So why aren’t they slapping Fox with lawsuits?

A Reality concepts are barely protected by copyright law. Last year, a federal judge denied CBS’ claim that ABC’s ”I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!” copied ”Survivor.” ”It’s unscripted TV, which means the traditional analysis of substantial similarity of plot and character and dialogue doesn’t apply,” says entertainment lawyer Michael O’Connor. The ”fleshing out of the idea” makes shows distinct. Great news for anyone developing ”I’m a Contender…Get Me a New Spouse.”