Israel Court Recognizes Copyright and Moral Rights in the Format of a TV Show

Background

Copyright protection is available for films, TV programs and other creative endeavors. The problem with TV formats is that ideas and concepts are not protected. The embodiment of the idea is, but a format that is ‘copied’ abroad will inevitably be re-shot and the content will change. A game show is scripted by its players. A quiz could conceivably have the same questions in different jurisdictions but the participants will answer differently. Much of the viewability of a TV program is related to the characters of the participants themselves. Different competitors in a song competition will sing differently. In a cookery program, the participants will cook differently. Different people look and act differently in game-show survival situations.

Until this ruling, it was not clear that formats of TV shows are copyright protected. The fact that they are bought and sold does not mean a court would recognize a rip-off program as being copyright infringing.

Upgrade

Armoza Productions Israel makes formats of TV programs that are successful abroad. Saar Brodsky and two partners created a format called “Upgrade” that was not successful in Israel, but which Armoza Productions managed to market abroad in 30 countries. In a groundbreaking ruling, the Israel District Court recognized copyright as subsiding in the format and thus ruled that the creators’ moral and financial copyright was infringed. It will be noted that the court could have ruled damages under the catch all tort of Unjust Enrichment.

Upgrade is a game show that goes into people’s homes and offers them a chance to upgrade their personal items for brand new ones! Each home can wager their belongings against their trivia skills. If they answer correctly, their homes will be upgraded… but there’s a catch! Wrong answers mean the items they own will be taken away. Are you ready to be left without a dishwasher, TV, or bedroom set?

In each episode the ‘Upgrade’ team will enter 2 households and play the game with them. It can be with a group of young bachelors or a big family in the middle of having their dinner – but no matter what, it is always by surprise and unexpected. Now on air in over 15 territories!

A link to the format that was posted on YouTube may be found here.

Saar Brodsky, Rodrigo Gonzales and Gili Golan created the format in 2008 and made a pilot episode for Israel’s Channel 10 that was eventually scrapped without being broadcast.

The ‘rights’ to the format were sold to ‘Tanin Productions’ which is owned by Golan (Tanin is a crocodile) and these were then transferred to Armoza Productions with a request that the three creators be credited with the concept.

Brodsky claimed that despite the significant worldwide success of the format his name was deleted from the credits in an attempt to prevent him benefiting from the copyright and profits. Judge Avnieli ruled that Armoza acted intentionally in bad faith despite knowing about his contribution to the format. Since Armoza Productions is a limited company with a single owner, the owner is personally responsible in this instance.

Judge Avnieli noted that Armoza claimed that Brodsky merely thought up the idea and discussed it with friends and did nothing to develop it further. She rejects this defense. The entertainment is the result of work by Brodsky, Gonzales and Golan which was embodied in a storyboard and presentation that was prepared for the filming of the pilot program, that was the result of deep contemplation regarding the details, the structure of the episodes, directions to the actors, choice of competitors, preparation of questions, activities and anchors that resulted in the specific end product.

The Judge noted that under cross-examination Armoza was asked to identify the creators of the format and whether the plaintiff was one of them, and Armoza’s response was that they didn’t know and that it wasn’t relevant. This was not compatible with the evidence submitted that clearly showed that Brodsky was the producer of the pilot. Judge Avnieli considers that each time Armoza claimed to be the creators of the format without attributing Brodsky and his partners, they were infringing Brodsksy’s moral rights. The Judge ruled that Brodsky and partners should be credited in each episode, that Armoza should refrain from describing themselves as the creators and fined Armoza 30,000 Shekels in legal expenses.  There is a parallel ongoing case for financial damages of 1.5 million shekels.

Armoza have vowed to appeal the decision.

COMMENT

It is almost embarrassing that Israel is developing a reputation for such programs.

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