Castaway Television of London, U.K., has launched a copyright infringement lawsuit against Granada Television over the latter company’s plans to make a U.S. version of reality format I’m a Celebrity…Get me out of Here!. Castaway, worldwide rights holder of the highly successful Survivor format (which is produced for the North American market by Santa Monica, U.S.-based Mark Burnett Productions), claims Celebrity too closely resembles Survivor; it is seeking damages against both Granada and Celebrity prodco London Weekend Television.
Also involved in the litigation are U.S. networks CBS, which airs Survivor, and ABC, which plans to carry the new version of Celebrity. Proceedings began in September.
‘It is regrettable that CBS and Castaway are intending to take action against us,’ says Granada spokesperson Zoe McIntyre. ‘Their claim that our format infringes their rights in Survivor is entirely unfounded and we will strongly defend any proceedings that may be issued.’
Mike Large, Granada’s media relations manager, notes that news reports saying Granada was launching its own lawsuit are unfounded. ‘We are not planning to countersue,’ he says.
The Celebrity format features roughly eight minor-league entertainment personalities in an isolated location struggling to outlast their competitors in a game billed as a charity event. The Survivor format follows more than a dozen previously unknown contestants competing in a remote location for a substantial financial prize.
Peter Van den bussche, the U.K.-based head of international sales for New Zealand prodco Touchdown, says producers have few options when it comes to intellectual-property rights. ‘Right now, if someone wants to copy a format and make an almost identical one, a producer would have to go through all the courts in that country [to defend it],’ he says. The only way to avoid that eventuality would be if the industry establishes a universal agreement on copyright, Van den bussche adds.
Castaway declined to comment for this story.