Copying a television programme

Reshaun Massey commenced proceedings against Dinamo Productions Ltd on the basis that Dinamo’s children’s programme, ‘The Wordles’, bore numerous similarities with a programme Massey had written called ‘The Wevils’. He had submitted ‘The Wevil’s’ to the BBC channel CBeebies and to another producer, Kavaleer Productions Limited in July 2010.

Massey claimed five similarities in the plots and themes that had been taken from ‘The Wevil’s

1) ‘Opens in on a nursery (house in theirs)’

2) ‘Get the picture book out of the toy box’

3) ‘Open the picture book and it comes to life’

4) ‘Be transported to a location each episode whilst learning about the location’

5) The similarities between the name they previously entitled ‘Abadas – The Wordles’ to ‘The Wevils’.

Massey sought £2 million in compensation for ‘loss of production of my show along with subsequent distribution and merchandising losses’ and a ‘ban and cancellation of ‘Abadas’ from airwaves worldwide’. Dinamo sought to strike out this claim. Recorder Douglas Campbell considered Massey’s claim was ‘bound to fail’ and granted the application for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Dinamo produced evidence that all of the elements complained of were present in ‘The Wordles’ in 2009, which predated ˜The Wevil’s in 2010.

The similarities Massey compiled failed to acknowledge several differences and gave a warped view of the parallels between the two programmes. Recorder Campbell referred to the fact that Massey’s plot centred on a group of six children who travel from a nursery to a specific location connected to a word chosen in the book and had adventures where they used ‘individual special objects’. On the other hand, Dinamo’s show featured one child and three talking animal characters, none of which resembled any characteristics of the characters in ˜The Wevil’s. Dinamo’s animal characters all lived in the book, rather than finding the book the word in Dinamo’s book specifically defined an item, not a location like in Massey’s creation the animated characters did not learn about the location there was no use of any special objects by the individuals and the three animal characters stayed in the book at the end. Other differences such as the way in which the boy intereacted with the animal characters and the use of comedy and song were also noted in Dinamo’s programme.

Massey did not refute these problems or give reasons to assume his case would improve. If he had done so, Campbell would have been ready to consider whether the case should have gone to a half day hearing, but Massey did not engage with Dinamo’s case at all.

Lastly, Campbell affirmed the requirement to act fairly to both parties. Where Massey had done nothing to address the key flaws of his case, it was not necessary for the court to fight Massey’s case for him or to require Dinamo to incur the time and expense of a trial. For these reasons the verdict for the claimant’s case to be struck out under the Civil Procedure Rules 3.4 (2) (a) was decided.

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