NBCU, BBC win 'stolen' TV idea case

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NBCU, BBC win 'stolen' TV idea case

Mon Oct 04, 2010 @ 08:59AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Lightbulb-idea A federal judge in New York has let NBC Universal, the BBC and the Travel Channel off the hook on allegations the studios were engaged in criminal racketeering by running a website that allowed people to submit ideas for new TV shows.

The lawsuit was brought by Christopher Cardillo, who claimed that after he had submitted an idea via the website about a family of four who travel around the nation in a Winnebago, the defendants had stolen his idea to create the reality show "The Great American Road Trip." 

The defendants pointed out that Cardillo never registered copyright on the proposed show, so a copyright claim was voluntarily withdrawn. Instead, Cardillo pursued a legal theory that NBCU, BBC and Travel engaged in a pattern of deceitful, collusive behavior intended to rip off those with great TV show ideas.

Unfortunately for the plaintiff, New York federal judge Dora Irizarry isn't buying that TV studios are akin to gangsters. In the decision dismissing the RICO lawsuit last week, the judge points out that the plaintiff's allegation is based on a "single act," short of showing a "pattern of racketeering activity."

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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