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CBS Sues to Block New ABC Program

The network claims that 'Celebrity,' an alleged knockoff of 'Survivor' with famous contestants, would infringe its copyright.

November 07, 2002|Meg James | Times Staff Writer

Firing a shot aimed at defending its lucrative "Survivor" franchise, CBS on Wednesday sued to block rival ABC from airing an alleged knockoff show called "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here."

In its copyright infringement complaint filed in federal court in New York, CBS asked a judge to stop ABC and Granada Entertainment USA from "producing, broadcasting, displaying, publishing or otherwise disseminating 'Celebrity' " or any other show modeled after "Survivor."

ABC executives declined to comment, saying they have not reviewed the lawsuit. Granada Entertainment issued a statement calling the infringement claim "unfounded," and promised to fight the allegations.

The Walt Disney Co.-owned network in September announced the hiring of London-based Granada to produce 15 episodes of the show, which first aired in August in Britain. ABC said its version would be broadcast on consecutive nights, and considered airing the episodes during the all-important February sweeps.

"The series will follow the [Britain] version of dropping eight celebrities in one of the world's most inhospitable climates with just basic rations of rice and water," read ABC's Sept. 18 news release. "They are at the mercy of television viewers who single out a celebrity a night to undertake a physical challenge in order to win enough food for the rest of the group."

Contestants picked for the show would "not just be actors and actresses but a wide variety of famous and infamous headline-makers," according to the ABC release.

TV viewers, not show contestants, would vote for their favorites to remain "in the camp" during the show's final week, similar to Fox Broadcasting's summer sensation "American Idol," in which TV viewers voted to keep their favorite would-be star on the program.

In its 18-page lawsuit, Viacom-owned CBS alleged: " 'Celebrity' was consciously designed to mimic 'Survivor' and unfairly trade on its success."

Similar to "Survivor," the ABC show will follow a group of people stranded in a remote location as they compete in a series of physical and mental challenges. Each episode ends with an "elimination ceremony," the suit alleges.

Last year, CBS sued Fox to halt broadcasts of a show called "Boot Camp." That case quietly settled when "Boot Camp" failed in the ratings.

Castaway Productions Ltd., which owns the British rights to "Survivor," also sued Granada in September for copyright infringement. That case also is pending.

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