Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law

First Page



Because copyright law is meant to protect creativity, there must be a means by which the U.S. government can offer some guarantee to the creators of a reality show that their creative output will be guarded against copying which diminishes the show's value. Therefore, this note seeks to answer the question: "what can we do to provide a reasonable level of protection against infringement to the creators of a new concept for a reality show?" Part I of this note provides a brief overview of the law regarding copyright infringement with particular emphasis on the unique protection afforded a compilation of ideas. Also discussed is the concept of substantial similarity and the test used to determine copyright infringement. Part II focuses on recent cases involving copyright infringement and reality shows and how the substantial similarity test has been applied to the genre. Part III explains why the unique nature of reality shows causes the courts to apply the substantial similarity test improperly. Part IV sets forth a process by which the unique fingerprint of a reality show--in essence a compilation of ideas and expressions--is identified and applied to the tests for substantial similarity.