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Jewish World Review March. 8, 2005 / 27 Adar I 5765

Steve Young

Steve Young
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Liar, Liar, Profits on Fire: Blame the Writer | The check's in the mail?

She means nothing to me?

You can place them all in second place now.

"American Idol" may not be on the up and up.

Holy Art Buchwald. The show, nay the Goliath conglomerate, number one TV show, number one record, number one meanie; all of them are (alleged to be) the result of a stolen idea. Stolen from the little guy. A little guy who had an American Dream AND an American trademark...and that was AMERICAN IDOL!

Today, the New Orleans 5th Court of Appeals visited Houston, Texas to hear arguments in the David vs. Goliath of all time.

In a suit originally filed on May 14, 2003 the creators of "American Idol" are accused of infringing on his copyright and trademark and have stolen the show he had created and attempted to develop. Harry Keane Jr. of Irving, Texas, says he conceived the Fox show in 1994 and says he can prove it. Of course, a court of law and it's judge will be...the judge of that, but he seems to have some interesting substantiation, including an "American Idol" trademark and witnesses to support his claim that he was out pitching the same concepts as Fremantle Media (Simon Fuller, Simon Cowell) of the UK, first presented as "Pop Idol" in England, then "American Idol" in the US."

Mr. Keane's release says "The proposal detailed the entire production from concept to broadcast, including the 'initial' national auditions of 18- 27 year old talent, to the final 13 week television series, where celebrity judges and the viewing audience would vote on the final 20 contestants each week. Viewers would be able to vote by calling an 800 number or go on-line and vote over the Internet."

In fact, Keane says his proposal is identical in every detail to the proposal made by Fuller and Cowell when they pitched "Pop Idol" to Thames Television in London.

Before you go and say this happens all the time, you have to appreciate that something like this, this big, has never gone this far. Laying the groundwork for a Fox strategy of that seems to approve of taking advantage of someone else's idea, Fox attorney, Tom VanArsdale, claims that the way Harry Keane's marketed his show (on the Internet and unsolicited mail) was similar to standing on a street corner and shouting his idea to the world. And isn't that going to just thrill a jury of little people who probably don't think it's okay to steal from someone just because they're sloppy.

Now I certainly don't want cast aspersions on a television ratings colossus. They certainly have enough grief just trying to figure out how to spend the show's profits. You get the feeling that if this UK and Australian (Fox's Rupert Murdoch) cartel truly wanted to thank the American people for its success they could easily wipe out the federal deficit and still have enough change for...well, for paying the attorneys battling Mr. Keane's lawsuit. But nonetheless, if Mr. Keane has anything, there's going to be quite a bit of a problem for the Simons, et al.

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We can at least take solace that William Hung doesn't have to be drug through the dirt too. Let Reuben, Paula and Simon be cross-examined in the courts. They have the shoulders to handle it. At least Reuben does. It could be sweet justice for the thousands who have been abused by the trio.

So what does this say about Reality TV programming? It's like these television producers don't have to write their own shows. Reality shows without writing? Tell me it hasn't come to this. Worse than the lack of writing. Does this mean that reality television is just plagiarism massaged into 26 weeks of programming?

Stolen ideas in Hollywood? Tell me it's just a bad dream.

Of course, this could all be just someone looking for a quick payday, but if this is legitimate and we find there is actually thievery and a dearth of original ideas in television then I blame only one person...the writer. Why aren't they coming up with good, fresh ideas instead of forcing these producers to steal to make do? It's a crying shame. Hopefully it stops here. I don't know what I would do if movie producers are driven to lift ideas from other films, or worse, old TV shows. Damn you writers. Damn you to hell.


JWR contributor Steve Young created created his blog, for National Lampoon. Comment by clicking here.


© 2004, Steve Young