In proceedings brought late last year in Denmark creators and owners of the rights in “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” the Copenhagen Bailiff Court granted Celador an Order prohibiting Radio Denmark from further making and broadcasting on TV Station DR1 of a gameshow called “Double or Quits.”
Who: Celador Productions Ltd, Radio Denmark and th Ltd, Radio Denmark and the Format Recognition and Protection Association
When: October 1999 and April 2000
Where: Copenhagen and Cannes
In proceedings brought late last year in Denmark by Celador Productions, creators and owners of the rights in "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," the Copenhagen Bailiff Court granted Celador an Order prohibiting Radio Denmark from further making and broadcasting on TV Station DR1 of a gameshow called "Double or Quits." Despite the conspicuous number of similarities between the two shows, however, the Court did not reach its finding on the basis of copyright. It was the Danish Marketing Practices Act which gave Celador the legal ammunition they needed, by forbidding practices which "deliberately imitated and unfairly exploited the effort and market position of the claimant".
The defendant was well aware of the phenomenal success of the Celador show before it started work on "Double or Quits", thus the necessary element of "deliberateness" was adjudged to be present.
In the course of its judgement the Court repeated the view on copyright and gameshows which has become generally accepted since the late Hughie Green’s ill fated action against an Australian "Opportunity Knocks", namely that a TV gameshow format was no more than a collection of ideas and principles and was therefore not protectable by copyright.
Following this and other battles with "Millionaire" lookalikes, Celador was involved, together with an impressive international list of broadcasters and programme producers, in an initiative announced in Cannes in Spring 2000 to form FRAPA, the Format Recognition and Protection Association. One of FRAPA’s priorities is to crusade for the recognition of intellectual property rights in show formats.
Why this matters:
Format rights have been the subject of an ongoing legal debate for at least 20 years now, and despite peaks of interest and at least one ill-fated private member’s bill seeking to create a new sui generis format right in the UK, the arguments of the format creators have consistently failed to persuade legislators that "something had to be done." In most cases it has been felt that there are other legal weapons available (such as the UK law of passing off) to deal with imitations and that formats being such a slippery beast to define, declining a statutory definition would inevitably lead to still further legal debate and dispute about its full ambit. Our prediction is that FRAPA’s efforts have no greater prospects of success than those of their illustrious predecessors, but we wish them well.