CBS is moving to shutter ABC’s new reality show The Glass House before it even airs. Set to premiere on June 18 (if the network doesn’t get their way), Glass House will feature fourteen strangers locked up together in — yes — a glass house, where they’ll compete in challenges and scheme against each other with input from viewers provided via social networking channels. It’s a concept that certainly sounds familiar to CBS; their lawyers argue the show is “strikingly similar” to reality stalwart Big Brother, whose contestants fight and scheme (and parade themselves in novelty costumes) all summer — just in a faux house that isn’t yet made of glass.
Legal proceedings for copyright infringement appear near-certain should ABC move forward with the show. But first, lawyers for CBS wrote a “cease-and-desist” letter to ABC on Friday that, “that [the network] has instructed us to pursue all available remedies if this course of conduct continues.” It continues:
“In the strongest possible terms, we must admonish ABC and anyone involved in the development or production of Glass House that they will be acting at their own peril if they continue to proceed in this manner … Even worse, CBS is informed that Glass House is being produced by a team of at least 18 former members of CBS’ Big Brother production staff — all of whom were privy to trade secrets and other confidential, proprietary information and signed broad and binding nondisclosure agreements in connection with Big Brother.”
Previous copyright cases concerning reality TV — most notably CBS vs. ABC over similarities between the former’s Survivor and the latter’s flop I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here — have almost always fallen apart because, as NYT’s Bill Carter notes, “everybody’s reality is inherently different.” This makes the plaintiff’s burden of proof a difficult hurdle to overcome. So it’s the nondisclosure agreements allegedly in the mix among Glass House’s producers that suggest CBS stands a chance in any lawsuits that follow this time around — the network’s lawyers are already arguing they represent a barrier to the production of such a similar reality vehicle. Perhaps the only way to settle it is with an outlandish, campy competition … let’s say a race crawling through a large trough of caramel.