How can I protect my format?
While there is no absolute protection of the intellectual property of television formats there are a number of things the format creator can do at inception, during development, when pitching, after the first production is made and when “selling” the format around the world.
In the absence of clear legal guidelines in some jurisdictions and with some courts failing to uphold claims of copyright infringement as applied to television formats even in instances where such infringement would seem to be flagrant and blatant some creators despair of copyright protection. But over the last fifteen years courts have been educated and so FRAPA continues to fight for greater recognition and protection.
A claim to the ownership of a format must first be made using the law of copyright. The cornerstone of copyright law is that there can be no copyright in an idea or concept. The copyright is in the expression of that idea and the most obvious expression is by writing down a detailed description of a format. And FRAPA strongly recommends that TV format proposals are registered with the FRAPA Digital Online Format Registry.
Why should I register my format proposal?
FRAPA always recommends the registration of format proposals. It provides credible evidence that this specific work existed the moment you created it. The best evidence that you created a format concept is a signed declaration by a neutral third-party custodian, who swears that they received your manuscript on a certain date and has kept it in seclusion ever since. This is what registration with the FRAPA Paper Format Registry (available only to FRAPA members) or the FRAPA Digital Online Registry accomplishes.
Is a FRS registration enough proof?
A FRS registration is only one step in the process of proving ownership. In case of a possible court case the date connected to your uploaded work within the FRS system is important. But please note that the FRS does not compare the registered format with other registered formats or other already existing formats. There is not such thing as a worldwide libraby of registred formats.
Is it therefore possible that company X registers an already existing format from company Y? This is possible but of course does not mean that company X, by registering the format, is now automatically the owner of the format. It needs to be proved that company Y already created the format. E.g. by showing that they developed the format prior to the registration of company X. Who was first is an important element. Therefore it is important for every formatcreator to register in an early stage and to describe every step in the process. For more details we refer to: 20 steps of protecting your format.
In case of a possible legal dispute FRAPA can be asked to mediate and/or to provide a FRAPA Analysis Report. We compare formats and analyse differences and resemblances.
Is registration with the FRAPA confidential?
Yes. No data, names or addresses are passed on to any party for commercial use.
What are the advantages of referring disputes to mediation?
The format industry is characterised by fierce competition, which easily gives rise to disputes. These disagreements very often relate to the unauthorised use of formats owned by third parties and can be difficult to resolve in court because of the differences in relevant national laws.
FRAPA provides mediation between parties involved in disputes arising out of claims of format plagiarism. Alternative dispute resolution services, such as mediation and arbitration, are designed to save parties involved in commercial disputes both time and money.
Mediation consists of negotiation between disputants carried out with the assistance of a neutral intermediary. It attempts to reach consensus between the parties involved. The disputants remain in control over both the process and the outcome. Confidentiality serves to encourage frankness and openness by reassuring the parties that any admissions, proposals or offers of settlement will have no consequences beyond the mediation process. In other words, they cannot be used in subsequent litigation.
Mediation helps format-owners, producers and broadcasters to stay out of court by resolving format disputes at their source. An obvious benefit of mediation is that both parties can continue with their business relationships.
Since 2009, FRAPA has been co-operating with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Arbitration and Mediation Center. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, this specialist UN agency was established in 1994 to offer Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) options, in particular arbitration and mediation, for the resolution of international commercial disputes between private parties.
What sort of formats can be registered?
FRAPA strongly advises the registration of all of your creative work — treatments, scripts, outlines, development documents, tender submissions, storylines, artwork and synopses — as soon as possible after conception. Creative work can be registered in (almost) every format with the FRAPA Digital Online Format Registry. When registering, it is advisable to include as much detail as possible. Inevitably the development process means that the format that gets produced has varied somewhat from your first written description. Make the changes in your written document and resubmit it as the final format again paying massive attention to all the details.