FRAPA 2011 report studies the protection question

This year's report, unveiled at MIPCOM by National Geographic Channels U.S. CEO David Lyle (pictured), details the legal protections available to formats in 14 territories, and offers tips for how producers can protect themselves when shopping their ideas.
October 4, 2011

The 2011 report from the Format Recognition and Protection Agency (FRAPA), launched at MIPCOM this morning, analyzes legal protection available to formats and their producers in 14 territories, while also providing insight into how format producers may avoid trips to the courthouse.

Unveiled by National Geographic Channels U.S. CEO David Lyle (pictured) at a press conference, the report examines over 40 reported judgments from around the world, delving into copyright, unfair competition, breach of confidence and trademark disputes.

Lyle said the aim of the report was to put in plain terms for FRAPA members “the steps you need to take in format creation and registration, [as well as when] you’re pitching and licensing it, and how you can maximize in each jurisdiction the best legal protection.”

The format business has risen in prominence and economic clout over the last 10 years, or, as Lyle referred to the period, “the unscripted decade.” In its last study, the organization valued the format business at €9.3 billion over the three-year period from 2006-2008. Thus, there’s big money to be made, and lost.

The 14 territories studied in the report, compiled with international media and telecommunications law firm Olswang LLP, include Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, India, the UK and the U.S.

While in some of those territories, legal protection for format creators has evolved over time, some territories still have a way to go, according to data from the report. FRAPA maintains that Germany in particular can be an unsympathetic environment for format disputes.

At the press conference, Lyle also summarized a few points that producers will be able to take away from the report regarding protecting their formats at the pitch stage, when they are at their most vulnerable.

“Even though when you’re pitching [a project] you only get about 20 minutes, you must have it written down,” he offered. “A format only really exists when it’s written down – a physical representation – so write it in explicit detail, with all the elements that you can [provide].”

Secondly, “it seems obvious but don’t tell people about your format who don’t need to know. But sometimes people can be too paranoid and they won’t even tell the people they’re trying to sell it to.”

Last but not least, Lyle said the value of comprehensive note-keeping can’t be underestimated. “Diarize when you went to whichever broadcaster you met with to pitch, and the individual responses of whoever was in the room,” he recommended. “Know who’s in the room and know what was said. And always follow up with an email that provides a ‘subtle’ record of the meeting.” 

The 2011 FRAPA report is freely available to members of the organization, and comes at a cost of €199 for non-members. More information can be found at

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