Who Owns the Idea For a Reality Series? Will Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott's Company Shell Out To "Producers" Who Claim a Reality Show About The Stars Lives Was Their Idea
A June 3rd, 2013 Hollywood Reporter item reveals that Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott's production company (along with Oxygen Media, Bunim-Murray Productions, and World of Wonder Productions) has been sued by two Oregon men and their LA partner for breach of implied contract (and more) in connection with what the plaintiffs claim was the theft of their idea for a reality show that had been pitched to Oxygen and Spelling and McDermott before Oxygen's 2011 reality series sTORIbook Weddings.
Students of intellectual property law will take note: This isn't a copyright claim (you can't copyright an idea).
The lawsuit that Denny O’Neil Jr., Jake P. Hall (of Oregon) and Charles W. Malcolm (of Los Angeles) filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on June 3rd, 2013 is based on contract theory.
The plaintiffs say that Oxygen's 2011 reality series sTORIbook Weddings, starring Tori Spelling and husband Dean McDermott, was a rip-off of an idea the plaintiffs had registered with Writers Guild in 2007 (called Wedding Rescue) and then pitched to the defendants.
Basically, after registering a treatment (a reality show idea starring Spelling and McDermott?) with the WGA, the plaintiffs allege they sent a copy of their treatment to a UTA agent representing Spelling and McDermott and subsequently they say they contacted an executive at Oxygen and had a meeting there - to follow up on their treatment - in 2009. Later that year, they were told Oxygen was not interested. Apparently nothing further happened between the parties until sTORIbook Weddings premiered on Oxygen on April 6, 2011.
The theory in this case is that, based on the meeting and correspondence, there was an implied contract. The plaintiffs are suing under California law, asserting that Oxygen and the stars must pay them - not for copyright infringement but under contract law - because a reality show based on a program the men proposed was subsequently produced.
If this one goes to trial (many of these cases settle before a public airing of all the evidence) it will be fascinating to see how a judge balances the rights of the stars to exploit their fame (the so-called right of publicity) versus the right of authors to register ideas about the stars and then - based on a meeting and some emails - to protect their intellectual property via implied contract.
In related news, this post shall serve as legal notice to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West (as well as their heirs, assigns and successors) that it was my idea this 4th of June, 2013 to make a "reality" TV show about the birth, nurturing and early years of their second child and or subsequent children (including, but not limited to, twins, triplets, up to and including octuplets) or, in the alternative, to make a reality show about the break-up of Kim and Kanye (including but not limited to, their trial-separation and subsequent divorce should they marry). These rights expressly include my original idea that Kim should emerge from any of the aforementioned events (or any life event not previously experienced and videotaped that features Kim Kardashian) "wiser and stronger, more completely a mature woman but also a little less-trusting."