U.N. agency to mediate reality show idea theft cases

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U.N. agency to mediate reality show idea theft cases

Thu Apr 15, 2010 @ 12:59PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

The United Nations is getting into reality television.

The World Intellectual Property Organization, an agency of the U.N., is launching new alternative dispute resolution services for those who feel they've come up with the idea of a reality television show first.

WIPO is collaborating with the Format Recognition and Protection Association, a 10-year-old ARR center. Together, they hope to mediate the growing number of plagiarism and idea theft cases in the reality television genre. In recent years, studios have been swamped with "I thought of it first" lawsuits. Among the reality TV shows sued for idea theft (in the U.S. alone): "Project Runway," "The Apprentice," "So You Think You Can Dance," "Steven Seagal: Lawman," "Rock Star," "Pros vs. Joes," "The Next Great Champ," "America's Funniest Home Videos," and on and on...

It's hard to say whether Hollywood will welcome the news.

Perhaps producers here want to protect their own shows from local rip-off versions. According to WIPO, these disputes "can be difficult to resolve in court because of differences in relevant national laws in this area." But with a global dispute resolution forum, who knows how many budding reality producers will come out of the woodwork.

Showbiz mediation has suddenly become a hot business area, perhaps because organizations like WIPO see the potential for revenue from registration and filing fees. Last month, the Entertainment Mediation Institute launched, billing itself as the "first-ever organization dedicated exclusively to resolving disputes among parties in the entertainment industry."

Maybe the alternative dispute resolution forums will sue each other for idea theft.

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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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