Famous TV Shows Contend With Intellectual Property Law Too!! What Can You Learn From It?

Jul 12, 2019

When you think about intellectual property law violations, you probably don’t think about major media infractions. You might be surprised to find out that popular television shows have faced issues with copyright ranging from proving they are unique to problems with music and the rights to their own characters! Keep reading to find out more about the tricky ins and outs of copyright laws and the way they affect the media we consume every day!

Reality TV Troubles

Many reality shows have a similar premise to each other and can beg the question, “Is this show so similar to this earlier show that it is infringing upon its copyright?” After all, there are only so many ways to present talent competitions or shows about strangers having to live together and compete against one another. This has led to many lawsuits against reality television shows regarding intellectual property law violations1. Often what ends up being the most important factor is how individual segments of the show are presented. The television show The Biggest Loser won several cases brought by similar weight loss shows by proving that it was uniquely formatted.

Music on Television and The Wonder Years

Have you ever spent hours shopping online and in stores, looking for a release of your favorite older television show and been surprised that it’s nowhere to be found? This might have more to do with intellectual property law than a lack of demand for DVD sets!

One great example is The Wonder Years2. The show features lots of pop music and, when it was produced, had ties to the music industry. But the licensing for a television release is much different from the licensing for streaming or DVDs. Generally, older television shows’ music licenses were written with the assumption that the episode would only air a few times. Now with streaming and home video, the laws have changed to accommodate our viewing habits and contracts are being written differently. If you have a sharp ear, you might notice that different music has replaced what accompanied scenes when they originally aired!

Legal Issues and Doctor Who

The popular BBC sci-fi show Doctor Who has been around for over fifty years, spawning specials, comics, radio plays, novels, and even a movie. You might be surprised to find that there are some copyright issues with the show’s own characters and aliens.3

In the early days of the program, individual writers held onto the copyright of whatever they created. This was likely seen as a way to maximize the show’s original small budget. Generally, agreements were made so that the show would always retain use of these sci-fi creations. One issue that cropped up was the usage of a popular character, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. In a recent episode, a character was revealed to be the Brigadier’s grandfather, which led to a dispute from the character creator’s estate. No legal proceedings have come of this, but it is an interesting occurrence that shows how ideas about copyright law have changed with time.

Game Of Copyright Infringement?

When a television show or movie becomes popular, other brands may seek to mimic it. This causes big trouble if a television show uses material from another show, but what happens if a similar name is used for a completely unrelated product? HBO hit Game of Thrones4 found out the hard way that brand names like Game of Vapes and Game of Stones don’t infringe upon their rights. Game of Thrones attempted to stop these brands from mimicking the show’s name, but UK courts decided that these marks were different enough to not cause brand confusion.

Intellectual Property Law and You

Are you concerned about protecting your own creative works and making sure you avoid the missteps that these high profile cases took? Contact Garcia-Zamor today to go over your legal needs and troubleshoot any problems before they start! Defend your products and company name with confidence.


1. 16 Popular Shows Sued For Being Rip-offs –

2. The Weird Legal Reason Many of Your Favorite Shows Aren’t on DVD –

3. The Strange Copyright of Doctor Who –

4. HBO fails in attempt to protect Game of Thrones trade marks –