Thursday, 10 July 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #126: Roll Out the Lawyers!

A tip of my bishop's mitre to Nikki Finke's post about a memo by Howard Davine, an executive vice-president of ABC's TV production division.

Now some may say that the memo was just an executive offering advice about avoiding hassles when developing ideas "inspired" by foreign productions.

Others wade through the memo-speak and see it
as a blueprint for ripping off foreign programming by using the foreign show's "general premise" rather than remaking the actual show and paying the people who actually created the foreign "format."

I don't know the intent Mr. Davine had in his heart when he wrote that memo, I'm not a mind-reader, but I do know trouble, and if you listen very carefully you can hear shit hitting a fan.

Now every foreign network has ammunition to sue ABC if any of their shows bear even a passing resemblance to something from their stable of programs.

And it won't be just foreign networks leaping on this memo like Oprah on a self-help fad.

Any producer/writer/wannabe with an unsold pilot, script, or pitch written on toilet paper in their own blood that might share a "general premise" with any current ABC program will also be filing suit and waving this memo around as evidence.

The only thing a memo like that is going to produce is a lot of money for civil litigators.

Now ripping of ideas, even "general premises" is an unethical thing to do, especially in an industry based on intellectual property like entertainment.

Writing and releasing a memo outlining the correct method to rip off these "general premises" is just plain stupid.

Because if you're going to do the wrong thing, YOU DO NOT WRITE DOWN EVIDENCE AGAINST YOURSELF!

I'm not advocating that people do the wrong thing, I'm just advocating common sense.

Sadly, if common sense was available in Hollywood, a lot of lawyers wouldn't be getting so rich.

So here's my advice, not only to ABC, but to Hollywood in general:

1. Don't do stuff that will get you sued.

2. Don't write memos about doing stuff that will get you sued.

It's just that simple.

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