Friday, November 18, 2005

“Wife Swap” Producer May Proceed with Copyright Infringement Claim Against “Trading Spouses”

RDF Media produced a reality television show called “Wife Swap” that was aired on ABC in May 2004. Shortly after its airing, Fox Broadcasting ran a similar show called “Trading Spouses.” RDF brought suit based on two claims: copyright and trade dress infringement. Fox filed a motion to dismiss all of RDF’s claims.

In response to Fox’s motion, the Federal District Court Judge dismissed RDF’s trade dress claim because a television show itself could not be a trademark. The Court reasoned, “Trademark is concerned with the protection of symbols or elements; it does not protect the content of a creative work of artistic expression as a trademark for itself.”

RDG’s copyright claim withstood Fox’s motion to dismiss. RDF had filed the complaint before all of its episodes had been registered with the Copyright Office. The Court concluded that because the errant registrations were filed by the time the motion was heard no basis existed for dismissing the copyright claim.

RDF Media Limited v. Fox Broadcasting Company, 372 F. Supp.2d 556, 2005 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 12923 (C.D.Cal. 2005).

San Francisco’s Film Art’s Foundation to offer Self Defense Seminar December 10

Writers, directors, and producers must understand their legal rights and how to defend themselves against exploitation by production and distribution companies. In this intensive seminar, filmmakers learn how to anticipate problems before they arise in negotiations and create incentives that encourage companies to live up to their agreements, including performance incentives, default penalties, and arbitration clauses. In the event of an un-resolvable dispute, participants learn what remedies are available to enforce their rights.

Mark Litwak is a veteran entertainment attorney with offices in Beverly Hills, California. He writes a monthly syndicated column that appears on the Film Arts Web site as "The Litwak Files," and is the author of six books, including Reel Power, The Struggle for Influence and Success in the New Hollywood, Courtroom Crusaders, Dealmaking in the Film and Television Industry (winner of the 1995 Krazna-Krausz Book Award), Contracts for the Film and Television Industry, and Risky Business. He is the author of the popular CD-ROM program Movie Magic Contracts. In addition, Litwak is a producer's rep, assisting filmmakers in the financing, marketing and distribution of their films.

Self-Defense for Independent Filmmakers: Protecting Your Legal Rights
Sat Dec 10th from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

$95/Filmmaker-level members; $145/others.
Film Arts Foundation
145 9th Street, #101
San Francisco, CA, 94103

Call (415) 552-8760 to sign up or for questions or email