Background & Aims
Television formats are vulnerable to plagiarism, since it is widely believed they are not protected by existing copyright legislation. Many judges consider formats to be generic programme ‘ideas’, as opposed to creative works, maintaining that ideas cannot be protected by copyright law.
It is hardly surprising that, in the absence of clear legal guidelines, courts have been reluctant to uphold claims of copyright infringement as applied to television formats. While the format trade assumes that intellectual property (IP) rights exist in formats, this assumption is disputed in law. Against this backdrop, format theft continues to be a threat, rendering IP protection of central importance to the formats industry.
Why FRAPA fights for the protection of formats
What are the rights to a TV format worth if one cannot protect oneself against unlicensed copying? This lack of protection strikes at the heart of the trade in format rights. The commercial strength of the format industry depends on its capacity to protect its product.
A claim to ownership of a format must be made using the law of copyright. But in order to justify one’s IP rights to a format, a clear case needs to be made to support the following arguments:
- Formats are the result of the intellectual work of their creators. Their creators should therefore be in a position to reap what they have sown. Anyone using a format without paying a reasonable licensing fee has wrongfully enriched him/herself at the expense of the creator.
- Formats require investment. The development, production and distribution of a format demand considerable financial resources. Investors need to be reassured that they will be able to make a profit on their investment.
- Format protection is a question of legal certainty. Those who can rely upon their own economic power and are in a position to exert financial pressure when it comes to protecting their formats will also want to know the commercial value of the product they are trading. There is a clear gap between book value and market value.
How FRAPA can help
FRAPA aims to create a framework for format protection by:
- Undertaking research, in order to assess the economic significance of the international trade in formats and to investigate the means of strengthening the protection of formats under law;
- Introducing industry-acceptable business practices and defining a code of conduct for fair competition;
- Acting as an industry pressure group to lobby for the legal recognition of format rights.