1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Monday, 29 April 2013

No Performers in Reality-TV Show

In the midst of a public relations debacle in connection with "Koh-Lanta" (the French version of "Survivors") relating to the untimely death of a participant and subsequent suicide of the show's MD, French broadcaster TF1 received a little bit of good news in its long-running legal battle against participants in another reality-TV program called "L'île de la tentation" ("Temptation Island").

Over a series of decisions working their way up to the Supreme Court (and then back to appellate courts after remand), participants in this adventure have successfully challenged the legal characterization of their contract with the production company (a subsidiary of TF1).  While ostensibly labelled a "rulebook for participants", the courts have agreed with the participants that their proper legal characterization is as employment contracts.  This was once again re-affirmed by the Supreme Court in its recent April 24, 2013 ruling.

The piece of good news for TF1 lay in the Court's refusal to go along with participants' other argument to the effect that they were also performers within the meaning of intellectual property law.  The Court held:
"...the court of appeal did not contradict itself in finding that the participants had no role to play nor any text to say, that all that was asked of them was that they be themselves and express their reactions to situations they encountered and that the artificial nature of these situations and the way they unfolded did not suffice to make them actors; having determined that their work involved no interpretation, the court correctly held that the status of performer did not apply to them."
The reasoning brings to mind another ruling involving the well-known documentary "Etre et avoir" where it was similarly held that the fact that one was being asked to be oneself in the context of a documentary (no screenplay or script) precluded treating that person as a performer or actor.

Info re Koh-Lanta scandal here

Supreme Court Ruling of April 24, 2013 (L'île de la tentation):  here

Supreme Court Ruling November 13, 2008 (Etre et avoir):  here

1 comment:

Ben said...

This is very interesting Asim - back in September 2010 the UK coalition government promised a review of child performer laws in the wake of a Channel 4 reality TV show called Boys & Girls Alone that featured a group of twenty primary school (11 year old) children living unsupervised in a house. Channel 4 was accused of 'corporate child abuse'and psychologists said that the youngsters were exposed to bullying, violence and intimidation and called for social services to investigate if they had been exploited in the documentary. But the minister clearly thought that 'performer' was the right description of those involved.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/sep/03/child-performance-laws-reality-tv