"Hard Copy" wishes someone had videotaped this caper.
Paramount Pictures Inc., producers of the "reality-based" show, said it's been robbed by Dick Clark Productions Inc., accusing the Burbank-based television syndicator of stealing trade secrets, unfair competition and breach of contract. Dick Clark denies the allegations.
OK, so maybe it's not as dramatic as some of the television tabloid's exploits (who could forget the three-part dramatization "I, Elvis"), but picture a grainy, black-and-white re-enactment with the headline "Ageless Deejay Pillages Paramount!"
A lawsuit, filed by Paramount in Los Angeles County Superior Court early last month, alleges that Dick Clark's "Caught in the Act" onetime television special is a "rip-off" of a regular "Hard Copy" segment called "Caught on Tape," which features police and private security surveillance videotapes of criminals doing what criminals do.
In developing "Caught in the Act," the suit says, Dick Clark consulted with two people who were under exclusive contract to Paramount and stole trade secrets, including information, lists and leads concerning sources of videotapes. The contract prevented the two employees, Dan Hanks and Mary Aloe, from working for other "television programs that are broadcast between 6 and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday anywhere in the country or for programs in the news or news magazine genre," the suit contends.
Paramount said it discovered the dastardly deed in April when it tried to license a videotape of a real-life cops-and-robbers chase scene where the bad guy crashes through a fence and plunges into a lake. It was then that it found that one of its employees, Dan Hanks, had arranged for Dick Clark to use the tape.
A week later, the suit says, an advertisement in the Hollywood Reporter listed Hanks and Aloe as being part of Dick Clark's production staff for the making of "Caught in the Act," a one-hour special program that ran on NBC a day after the lawsuit was filed.
Paramount is seeking more than $2 million in compensatory damages plus unspecified punitive damages.
Dick Clark Productions, a company founded in 1957 to capitalize on the deejay's position as host of the "American Bandstand" television show, has relied on producing awards programs such as "The American Music Awards" and "The Annual Academy of Country Music Awards." The company is developing two situation comedies and three made-for-TV movies, and also has a chain of American Bandstand Grill restaurants.
For its part, Dick Clark said the contracts between Paramount and Hanks and Aloe did not prohibit them from working on "Caught in the Act." The show, attorney Lou Petrich said, ran at 9 p.m. and was not a news program.
"It doesn't purport to tell the audience that this is news," Petrich said, pointing out that some of the footage used was several years old. "It tells the audience that surveillance taping is a big part of our lives, and it gave examples."
While Dick Clark concedes that Hanks, a former law enforcement agent, did work on the "Caught in the Act" project, Petrich said his work for Dick Clark did not conflict with working on "Hard Copy" since the Paramount show was on hiatus at the time. Aloe's services were available to Dick Clark, Petrich said, but she did not work on the show.
Also, Petrich said Dick Clark does not and never did hold the rights to the chase scene videotape and it was not used in "Caught in the Act," as Paramount suggested it would be in its lawsuit.
Petrich said Paramount attorneys had contacted him before filing the lawsuit, and he had assured them that the offending videotaped segment would not appear in the show.
"We're kind of trying to figure out what this is all about," Petrich said.
Paramount declined to comment on the suit, and no trial date has been set.
All this over a one-hour special that got hammered in the ratings by a rerun of "Home Improvement."