Format Rghts and Copyright

A debate on whether television format rights are copyrightable.

This paper examines how the idea of copyrighting television formats has become a prevalent area of debate in recent years, partly due to the increased global marketing/trade in television today and partly due to the changing nature of our television viewing habits and the types of programs on offer to the public at large. It looks at how the ingress of “Reality Television” onto our screens has sparked widespread comment on whether format rights should be available to broadcasting companies and program creators alike, in order firstly to protect them from infringement and secondly to “protect” the public from an influx of similar programs. It puts forward the author’s belief that by allowing format rights in television programs, one is not only radically extending what is considered to be a dramatic work for the purposes of copyright law, but by giving this type of control to production companies one is narrowing the public’s right to choose and only taking from an ever diminishing public domain.

Trash Television, “Tabloid Culture” and the Emergence of the “Real”.
The Dramatic Work ” A Reality
Opportunity Knocks”
The Consultative Document and the Possible End of Format Rights
The Format Trade
The New Breed of “Real” Format Rights
A Step Too Far
End of a Genre”
“The Format Recognition and Protection Association believes that there is no protection of formats at present which is good enough to meet the need, and their aim is “to promote to producers, broadcasters and the law, the concept of formats as unique, intellectual properties”. There are however other, and possibly better ways to protect these types of programmes. Trademarks, although not able to protect the format of a show per se, will protect the titles, and it is becoming increasingly more common to do this , with shows like “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and “The Weakest Link” which are almost internationally known brands of television. This may well have helped Hughie Green in the Opportunity Knocks Case, whose title was also used by the New Zealand Broadcasting Corp.”