Nov 20, 2015

Barry Sues Producers of TV Show "The Voice", Claiming it Copied His Format

Irishman Roy Barry, adamant that talent show "The Voice" is based on his idea, has vowed to bring claim in the Dutch Courts against the Dutch producers of The Voice, Talpa Media, after his claim for copyright infringement and breach of contract was thrown out of court in California due to a lack of jurisdiction.

Barry claims that someone at Talpa Media viewed his idea on the TV Writers Vault (the Vault) in 2009, a US based forum where users pitch ideas to be viewed by TV Executives.

The Voice is a popular talent show in which judges cannot see contestants performing until they press their red button to 'yes' them, at which point their chairs swivel around so they can see the contestant.

Copyright in a TV Show Format

It has previously been established that copyright can subsist in a TV Show – in a previous case copyright was found to subsist in the TV Show 'Survive!', on the basis that it contained twelve distinct elements. However, that claim did fail on a lack of similarity with the infringing show (Big Brother). In that case it was stated that "if only one element has been copied", there would be no infringement.

A writer on the IPKat blog observed that on the above basis Barry's case will depend on the detail of his pitch on the Vault, i.e. if all he had posted/pitched was that the judges could not see the contestants then Barry will not have a strong case for copyright infringement.

Despite the possibility of copyright subsisting in TV Shows, not many cases make it to Court.

Contract Dispute

According to the Guardian, Barry claims after he had registered a domain name for "The Voice of America", producers of The Entertainment Group viewed his pitch on the Vault and "signed an NDA" (non-disclosure agreement) – presumably via the websites terms and conditions. At a basic level this forms grounds for a contract claim, terms and conditions are a simple basis for a contract providing they are reasonable and fair and there has been acceptance. The producers, allegedly, went on to work for Talpa Media and The Voice unravelled thereafter.

It must be said that Barry is in an unusual position having never interacted with anyone from Talpa Media with regards to the subject matter, but it will be interesting to see how his Dutch Claim unfolds; Barry has vowed to bring a claim in Holland "after Christmas".

Posted by: in: Contract, Copyright, News

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