The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the dismissal of copyright infringement claims by a plaintiff who alleged that the creators of the reality television show The Biggest Loser copied text and ideas from her written proposal for a program to be called Phat Farm. Latimore v. NBC Universal, Inc., No. 11-1202-cv (2d Cir. May 23, 2012).
In a brief, non-precedential opinion, the Second Circuit explained that “[i]n the absence of direct evidence of copying, a plaintiff can circumstantially prove that a defendant copied her work by showing both the defendant’s ‘access to the copyrighted work’ and the ‘substantial similarity of protectible material in the two works.'” (Quoting Williams v. Chrichton, 84 F.3d 581, 587 (2d Cir. 1996).) The court determined that the plaintiff had not produced evidence that the defendants “ever had access to [the plaintiff’s] proposal, or heard of it.”
The court also agreed with the district court that The Biggest Loser and Phat Farm were not substantially similar. Without detailed discussion of the facts, the court concluded that–
Although both ideas take advantage of staples of reality television such as team-based competition, elimination, and communal living, the way in which The Biggest Loser combines and supplements these common elements results in a concept and overall feel that is entirely different than [plaintiff’s] proposal.